The road to domestic abuse normally starts with an abused child
by Steve Jones
Lisa Hawkins' abuse began decades before her boyfriend dangled her, head down, from the ninth floor balcony of a Myrtle Beach hotel.
“You want out of this room so bad,” he growled at her, his large hands wrapped around her ankles. “You're out of it now. What do you think of this?”
Hawkins struggled, trying to free her legs and plummet.
“Let me go,” she moaned. “Just let me go.”
By that time, Hawkins was used to feeling she wanted to die. She'd lived with it for years.
It began when she was 4, the day her mother legally relinquished her parental rights over her daughter to Hawkins' grandparents.
Why, Hawkins would wonder through her life, would her mother have done that?
The only conclusion she could draw was that she was flawed in some terrible, unfathomable way.
She was unlovable.
Hawkins' path to domestic abuse wasn't unusual, said JoAnne Patterson, who for 12 years has been the director of Citizens Against Spouse Abuse. Ninety percent of the women who've sought protection at one of the agency's shelter homes in Horry and Georgetown counties were abused as children, she said.
The early abuse sets up a dynamic that infuses an individual with, at best, low self-esteem and a feeling that relationships are often violent and that the violence is the result of that terrible, unfathomable flaw.
In other words, it's to be expected.
“They in their heart believe that this is the person they love and he can change and that somehow it's their fault,” Patterson said.
At the same time, the initial rush of love they felt from their subsequent abusers is as intoxicating as a powerful drug.
“They want the abuse to stop,” Patterson said, “not the relationship. They want the love.”
Patterson will be among the speakers at the third annual Women in Violence lecture series that begins Thursday at Horry-Georgetown Technical College. Scheduled to start at 7 p.m. for each of the next three Thursdays at the Burroughs & Chapin Auditorium on the Conway campus, the series is designed to educate the public on domestic abuse and to raise awareness of the frequency with which it happens.
According to the most recent statistics, South Carolina ranks seventh among states in the incidence of domestic abuse and ninth in the rate of murders that can be pegged to abusive relationships. The Attorney General's office reports that there have been an average of 33 deaths per year from domestic violence statewide over the last 15 years. Patterson will be discussing the severity of domestic violence in South Carolina and CASA's role in providing help to abuse victims. Joining her on stage the first week will be Erin Wilde, a STAR 92.1 radio personality who will talk about her experience with domestic violence.
Tanya Brown, sister of Nicole Simpson Brown, the murdered wife of former football star O.J. Simpson, will speak on Oct. 20.
The final night, Oct. 27, Hawkins will be among at least four HGTC students who will share the stories of their domestic abuse and their lives as survivors.
Pulled from the brink
Hawkins' boyfriend pulled her back onto the balcony after she begged to be dropped. It was Jan. 14, 2005, her 42nd birthday, and the two had traveled to Myrtle Beach from Gaffney to celebrate the day. Before that, she said, the two had enjoyed their vacation at the beach.
He was always more abusive to her – both verbally and physically – on holidays and her birthday, Hawkins said as she related her tale. That she stayed with him for more than another year after hanging so close to death likely is puzzling to those who don't know the tangle of an abusive childhood, but even more so when they learn that Hawkins had been through it before.
Hawkins' grandparents did not hit her, but her grandmother alternated between verbally abuse and telling Hawkins she loved her. With her in tow, her grandfather chased and stopped Hawkins' mother on a downtown Gaffney street one day and asked her point blank why she never came to spend time with her daughter. Hawkins recalls the two argued, and then her mother just turned and walked away.
“I wanted her to tell me she was sorry,” Hawkins said.
When she was in the fifth or sixth grade, Hawkins said, she was placed in an academically advanced class where all the other kids came from homes more economically advantaged than hers. For some reason, Hawkins' grandmother wouldn't let her wash her hair daily. She recalls being taunted by her classmates on days she showed up with oily hair.
As a teenager, Hawkins said, her grandparents wouldn't let her leave the yard of their home.
At age 15, tired of her grandmother's unending criticism, she told her grandparents she was pregnant so they would sign the papers to let her marry her 18-year-old boyfriend. She wasn't pregnant when she got married, but was not long after. The two had a son, the child she determinedly would never abandon despite the troubles ahead.
Hawkins' marriage ended the night her husband threw her through the door of the mobile home where they lived.
Repeating the cycle
She worked tenaciously to keep her son and herself above water after the breakup, and had a good-paying job, a nice vehicle and was buying a home the day in 2000 the tall, good-looking guy showed up at her door.
As with her husband, he was the perfect mate for about six months, and she once again was hooked by the rush of being loved. It felt soooo good. Nothing like it.
The relationship took a turn for the worse when her boyfriend brought crack cocaine for the couple to share. Hawkins joined him in consuming it. Eventually, she decided it was not a good thing, but not before it had ruined her finances.
The abuse started, as it had the first time, with harsh words and demands that she put an end to habits that involved her spending time with friends.
Then the beatings came, some worse than others. At times there would be remorse on his part, vows that he would reform, followed by briefer and briefer honeymoon-like makeups before it would start all over again.
“I wanted him to love me,” she said. “And I loved him.”
Abusers likely also victims
Leila Rogers, the HGTC sociology professor who organizes the Women in Violence lectures, said this year's series will also take a look at what causes men to become abusers.
“We're trying to show that if you witnessed abuse in the home, you're much more likely to become a bully in school,” she said. “And those bullies are more likely to become abusers in a relationship.”
Patterson agreed that men who abuse women likely suffered from abuse as children, just as did the women they demean and hit.
Men aren't always the abusers and women aren't always the victims, according to the statistics. A male victim of domestic abuse spoke at last year's Women in Violence series.
Hawkins wasn't totally passive in her relationship, either. One time, she recalled taunting her boyfriend with the threat that she was going to see a man of whom he was jealous.
“When I said that, he went berserk,” she said. “We got into a big fight. He was beating me and beating me.”
While an abusive childhood may be a major link among domestic abuse victims, it is by no means the only issue that enmeshes them in the violence and makes getting out so very, very hard. Hawkins, for instance, speaks stoically about the physical and verbal violence inflicted on her, her demeanor cracking only when she talks about problems the two had in public and no one calling authorities about it.
Hawkins and her boyfriend decided within months of returning to Gaffney after the balcony incident that they would move to Myrtle Beach permanently and make a fresh start. The relocation to the beach would give them the space to leave the past behind them, they told each other.
“I thought if I could fix him or save him, then he would love me all that much more,” she said.
In less than a year, though, Hawkins was hospitalized for a blood clot in one lung and a broken ankle from a particularly violent episode. Three days later, she was released and with no where else to go, neighbors at the cheap motel where they lived picked her up and took her back there.
Hawkins remembered sitting in the parking lot for a long time, waiting for her boyfriend to emerge from their room and help her climb the steps to the second floor. He never showed, and she said she scooted from step to step on her butt, lifting herself with her arms.
All the while, she said, she was certain he would kill her when she got to the room.
The hollering started almost as soon as she'd closed the door. The slapping, the punching and the choking followed, the noise of the screams and curses shot across the motel's parking lot and into other rooms. She recalled being thrown about the room, repeatedly
Suddenly there was a loud, authoritative knock on the door.
“Police,” the voice said.
Hawkins said her boyfriend instantly turned to her, a look of fear on his face and his palms pressed together, his fingers a steeple above them.
“As soon as he heard ‘Myrtle Beach police,'” she said, “he turned around and said ‘Baby baby baby!'”
The next day, her boyfriend was in a jail cell and she was at the home of friends where they urged her to seek help.
“I was so humiliated and upset and every emotion you can think of … confused …” she said of the conversation that lasted for hours. “They felt I needed help because I was a mess, emotionally, physically and mentally.”
The journey of healing
The next day, with a referral from Myrtle Beach police, she landed a CASA's safe house.
“They were so nice to me,” she said, “and I remember that it smelled so nice in there.”
Hawkins has seen her ex-boyfriend only once since the two were taken into police custody. That was at the trial, where he was sentenced to spend 30 days in jail. To the blindfolded eyes of justice, he was a first-time offender.
Since then, she has healed enough that she's earned a high school diploma and is working on an associate's degree in human services, with a plan to eventually become a counselor and put her expertise to work for CASA. She has moved in with another boyfriend, a gentle man who can talk about his emotions without embarrassment.
The two share a puppy.
“Right now, I want to live more than I ever wanted to live,” she said. “I'm so happy I don't know what to do.”
She's nervous about telling her story in front of an audience, but at the same time she feels a sense of accomplishment. She hopes she reaches just one person, draws her, or him, out of the maelstrom of domestic abuse.
But she also knows that's not highly likely.
Many people, she said, told her for years to get out of one relationship or the other.
She took the step to do so only when it was thrust on her from the outside.
Being abused, Patterson said, “is something you become comfortable with. It's what you know.”
The typical client at CASA has left an abusive relationship seven to 11 times before they seek help. The oldest woman ever to seek shelter and help at CASA, Patterson said, was an 88-year-old woman who was hoping her abusive husband would die before she did.
Patterson said intervention needs to happen in childhood to stop abusive relationships among adults.
Even after a victim seeks assistance, recovery is an ongoing job. Hawkins still attends group sessions at CASA.
The aftershocks of childhood abuse often last a lifetime, Patterson said.
But trying to get people out of the domestic abuse vortex and on a better road is a noble task that is worth the effort, Rogers said. It's important to repeat the message over and over.
“I want to show other battered women that you can leave and you can have a good life,” Hawkins said of her part in delivering the message. “A good life.”
Intervene to protect children from abuse
by GOV. SEAN PARNELL
The experiences domestic violence survivors have shared with me have never left my memory: women battered, stabbed, shot, burned, and tortured -- and far too many children witnessing these nightmarish scenes.
I often wonder how humans can be so cruel to the persons they are supposed to love and protect. I have learned a great deal about domestic violence and sexual assault in Alaska, and as governor I've made ending this epidemic one of my highest priorities.
My administration launched the Choose Respect Initiative in 2009. We have held marches, met with survivors and victims' advocates and leaders in the field. We have spoken to groups across the state about Alaska's domestic violence epidemic.
Throughout these conversations, a very significant consequence of domestic violence has gotten our attention: Children exposed to domestic violence often endure lasting physical, mental and emotional scars.
They often suffer from depression, anxiety, aggression, and "acting out." They may be more susceptible to dating violence, or become abusers in their own adult relationships, perpetuating this epidemic.
To keep more children from being harmed, communities and citizens need to intervene before these crimes infect the home.
But how to intervene? Alaskans may not feel they have the skills needed to intervene on behalf of a family member, friend, neighbor, co-worker or child. Every situation is different, and keeping yourself safe is important. Yet passivity need not drive us.
One way to intervene on behalf of a child is to report child abuse to the Office of Children Services (OCS) or your local police department. Child abuse includes physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect and children who are exposed to domestic violence.
Many national organizations publish "playbooks" to help community members think through their roles as witnesses to violence or behaviors that condone violence. Here are some key points for your consideration:
• Be a positive role model, showing respect.
• Educate yourself about services in your community.
• Courageously speak up when you hear threatening language or behavior.
• Avoid antagonism.
• Be honest and direct whenever possible.
• Recruit help if necessary.
• If things get out of hand or become too serious, contact the police.
Most important, take the time to go out on a limb for a friend who may be in need of help. You can start a conversation by asking, "We're friends, aren't we? So can I ask you how you are doing?"
Reaching out to a friend or colleague who may be in a violent relationship can be uncomfortable, but your actions could save a life and help someone to a path of safety and healing.
Children listen. Children learn. We can make sure they know that domestic violence is not the norm.
With a single choice in one moment in time, you can make Alaska safer and positively alter the course of a child's life.
Learn more at our website, www.gov.alaska.gov, by clicking on Choose Respect
An investment in child abuse prevention saves money and lives
Make a difference by advocating for community training of parents, caregivers and adults who work with kids.
by Nancy Williams, Special to The Commercial Appeal
October 9, 2011
We live in a very busy world. The idea of taking the time to learn about protecting children from child abuse may feel like just one more thing we don't have time to do. Especially if it feels like it isn't our problem.
The truth is that child abuse in our community, whether in our own home, at our neighbor's house or in community settings, is like a toxin in the water supply. It affects us all. In the U.S. each year, there are about 800,000 cases of child maltreatment. All carry an enormous cost for both victims and the community as a whole.
The Memphis Child Advocacy Center houses the multi-agency team that provides investigation, intervention and prosecution in cases of alleged sexual abuse and severe physical abuse. Last year, nearly 1,200 children and their families received services at the center.
Child sexual abuse is a substantial but often silent danger. Nationally, one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused by the time they reach age 18, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And Shelby County has the highest number of reported child sexual abuse cases in Tennessee.
It is tempting to believe that child abuse won't occur in your neighborhood, or at your child's day care, school, sports league, after-school setting or place of worship. But that belief may be the very thing that puts your child at greater risk. In 90 percent of sexual abuse cases, offenders are known by the child. This includes coaches, mentors, counselors, clergy and teachers -- and very often family members.
Severe physical abuse is also a significant threat to our community's children, especially those who are the most likely to die as a result of physical abuse: kids under age 4.
In 2008, 1,770 children died in the United States as a result of verified abuse and neglect, according to the CDC.
When a child dies in Shelby County because of abuse or neglect by a caregiver, a special flag flies at the Child Advocacy Center on Poplar Avenue. The Children's Memorial Flag has been raised for 40 children since 2005. Ninety-two percent of these children were age 4 or younger, with the majority of those in their first two years of life.
Abuse of any kind in the earliest years of life is particularly traumatic, because children at such a young age do not have the cognitive and verbal skills to process what has happened to them. The traumatic event is stored in memory in the brain, and the only tools such a young child has to deal with that trauma are emotional -- as opposed to cognitive -- which can manifest as unhealthy behaviors later in life.
Maltreatment in early childhood can result in learning difficulties, physical problems, mental illness and difficulty interpreting and responding appropriately to perceived threats. It is no wonder that some adults abused as children seem "hard-wired" for dangerous relationships and self-destructive behavior.
We know that kids are amazingly resilient. The brain can, to a certain extent, self-correct. An abused child who is given the experience of a nurturing, safe environment has a real chance to learn healthy ways to understand and respond to the world, and become a healthy adult.
However, when sexual or physical violence continues without intervention, the amount of therapy and support needed for healing is exponentially greater. Sometimes people never recover.
The cost to our community is also extensive.
The U.S. Department of Justice estimates the immediate and tangible costs of a single incident of substantiated child sexual abuse to be more than $14,000. In Shelby County, this translates into an estimated $8 million annually.
Those are just immediate costs. Adults who experience maltreatment as children are 1.5 times more likely to use illicit drugs. Physically abused children have higher drop-out rates, are at greater risk of being arrested as juveniles, and are more likely to be involved in violent crime as adults. Sixty percent of first teen pregnancies are preceded by an incident of child sexual abuse.
When a community invests in effective, strategic prevention, it saves lives and it saves money.
One example of effective prevention is the Child Advocacy Center's sexual abuse prevention initiative, which features the Stewards of Children training for parents and other adults who care for children. Participants learn when to report suspected abuse, find out how to talk to their kids about abuse, and become advocates for policy changes that keep our kids safe in community settings.
If our community takes action, we can create a revolution. You can make a difference by advocating for community-wide training of parents, caregivers, and all adults who work with kids. Ask your faith leaders, school administrators, and community organizations what type of policy and training is in place to keep kids safe.
Nancy Williams is executive director of the Memphis Child Advocacy Center (MemphisCAC.org). Contact her at nwilliams@MemphisCAC.org.
This is one in a series of monthly guest columns on the importance of public/private investment in early childhood. For more information, call The Urban Child Institute at (901) 385-4233 or visit theurbanchildinstitute.org.
Myths and Facts about the Catholic Sexual Abuse Crisis
by John McKiggan
October 08, 2011
A reader sent me a link to an article published by the Catholic Education Resource Center titled 10 Myths about Priestly Pedophilia. The article claims to “debunk” myths perpetrated by the media about Catholic priest sexual abuse.
Unfortunately, the article itself contains a number of misstatements that I think bear correcting.
1. Catholic priests are more likely to be pedophiles than other groups of men.
The article claims there is no evidence that Catholic priests are more likely to abuse children than other groups of men.
What the article doesn't discuss is the number of allegations made against Catholic priests as opposed to members of other faith communities. I have been representing survivors of childhood sexual abuse for 20 years. I have made claims against the Catholic Church, the Anglican Church, the United Church and the Baptist Church among others.In short, child sexual abuse is not a problem that is limited solely to the Catholic Church.
However, of the hundreds of survivors that I have represented over the past 20 years, the vast majority of victims (over 90%) were abused by Catholic priests. I am not aware of any studies that have compared statistics for criminal charges involving sexual abuse against religious leaders. However, it is obvious to anyone that reads the newspapers that the vast majority of reported cases involve allegations against Catholic priests.
The article claims that:
Pedophilia among priests is extremely rare, affecting only 0.3% of the entire population of clergy.
Less than one half of one percent? This statement is incorrect.
Recently the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops commissioned an in-depth study of allegations of sexual abuse within the Catholic church. The research study conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, titled: The Nature and Scope of the Problem of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests and Deacons in the United States determined that it was impossible to determine the actual number of priests involved in pedophilia given that the crime is one of secrecy and victims often do not report the crimes.
However, the John Jay study determined that 4% of all priests active between 1950 and 2002 had allegations of abuse made against them. For the time period between 1960 to 2002 the study concluded that 4.3% of priests had been accused of sexual abuse. The study concluded that the rates of alleged abuse in the Catholic Church in the United States ranged from 3% to 6% of priests.
The prevalence of pedophilia in the general population is not known but according to some studies it is estimated to be between 3% and 9%. So according to the limited information that is available it does not appear that sexual abuse by Catholic priests any more prevalent than it is in the general population.
The question is whether there is something about the institutional structure of the Catholic Church that appears to have lead to much higher rates of sexual abuse among Catholic priests as opposed to other faith leaders.
2. Celibacy leads to pedophilia
The article claims that there is no causal connection between celibacy and any kind of sexual deviation. But in an interview with ABC, Eugene Kennedy a former priest who left the priesthood 25 years ago says that celibacy provides cover to pedophilia. Kennedy claims that:
Many young men at a very early age were recruited into it before they understood themselves or their own sexual identity. Their psycho-sexual maturation has been put on hold, so to speak, when they go in. So as a result they tend to act out with young people who were more or less the age they were when their maturation process stopped.
3. Allowing priests to marry would reduce pedophilia.
The article claims that allowing priests to marry would not prevent childhood abuse. This is one issue where I think the article is correct. If statistics are correct and the incidence of pedophilia among Catholic priests is similar to the incidence of pedophilia within the general population, allowing priests to marry probably would have no effect on the rate of childhood abuse within the church.
4. Celibacy was a medieval invention.
Not being a student of medieval history I have no comment one way or another about this. Simply put, I do not think celibacy is the problem. I think the prevalence of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church has more to do with the policies of the institution itself.
5. Female clergy would solve the problem.
The article claims allowing women to be priests would not reduce the incidents of childhood sexual abuse. The fact is that women are far less likely to engage in childhood sexual abuse. Again, reliable statistics are difficult to come by. In a Health Canada study published in 1996 it was reported that, in the Ontario Incidence study, 10% of sexual abuse investigations involved female perpetrators. In six studies reviewed by Russell and Finkelhor, female perpetrators accounted for 25% or more of abusers.
So pedophilia and childhood sexual abuse is not limited to male offenders. However, from the few published reports it does appear males are the offender at least 75% of the time. So if you increase the number of female priests you decrease, statistically, the chances that a priest will engage in childhood sexual abuse.
6. The Catholic Church has done nothing to address pedophilia.
The article describes the efforts the Catholic Church has made to address the problem of pedophilia within the Catholic Church. Simply put I think that the Catholic Church has failed miserably in efforts to address the problem of childhood sexual abuse by priests.
Vatican Denies Responsibility for Sexually Abusive Priests
The Catholic Church and Sexual Abuse: Is the church's response real action .. or window dressing?
Amnesty International Names Vatican for Failing to Protect Children
Mounting evidence of Catholic conspiracy to cover up sexual abuse by priests?
Simply put, the leadership of the Catholic Church has vigorously opposed efforts to compensate sexual abuse victims and has repeatedly tried to minimize the extent of the problem and has repeatedly tried to direct blame elsewhere.
7. Catholic journalists have ignored the pedophile problem.
There is no question that the problem of childhood sexual abuse within the Catholic Church has been the subject of much media attention. Leaving aside whether the Catholic media has reasonably addressed the issue, the fact remains that the institutional Catholic Church has done little, on a worldwide basis, to acknowledge its responsibility for the sexual abuse of thousands of children around the world.
What do you think?
The Catholic Church is facing a tidal wave of allegations of childhood abuse and cover-ups from countries around the world. It is difficult to understand how child abuse on such a massive scale could continue without it coming to the attention of the leaders of the world wide Catholic Church.
So I think the question is not: “Does celibacy cause pedophilia?”
Rather, a more appropriate question is: "Why has the Catholic Church, as an institution, failed so miserably in taking appropriate steps to protect children around the world from sexual abuse by Catholic priests?"
Burglars who tipped authorities to child porn stash likely to get leniency
There is honor among thieves.
Two teenage burglars risked arrest by tipping off Merced County authorities that CDs they'd stolen from a barn contained child pornography.
Their decision to come forward resulted in the arrest earlier this week of Kraig Stockard, 54, of Delhi, Calif., on suspicion of possession of pornography of children under 14, Merced County sheriff's spokesman Tom MacKenzie said.
The Merced County district attorney is reviewing the case for possible burglary as well as pornography charges, "but I'm pretty sure the D.A. will show leniency," MacKenzie said. "If they didn't tell us what they did, we wouldn't have found out something more heinous.
"It just goes to show, there's a line even the bad guys won't cross," MacKenzie said.
Stockard had reported the theft of propane tanks, tools and sodas, but not the missing CDs, to authorities, MacKenzie said. The young men, ages 17 and 19, took the 50 CDs to be blanks, and asked a family member -- possible an older sister -- to load them with music, he said.
She discovered the pornography and persuaded the young men to go to their parents, who insisted they turn the discs over to deputies, MacKenzie said. The teenagers made no effort to hide what they'd done, Mackenzie said.
"They were pretty straightforward about it," he said.
Deputies had Stockard come in, ostensibly to recover the stolen property, and confronted him with the CDs. He confessed eventually that they were his, MacKenzie said.
Investigators got a search warrant and seized three desktop computers and an external hard drive that Stockard led them to believe could contain more pornographic material.
Stockard was jailed briefly and released on bail. The two young burglars were not arrested and therefore are not being identified, MacKenzie said.
by R. KRITHIKA
India is finally ready with a comprehensive Bill that will protect children from sexual abuse. But the Bill, says author-activist Pinki Virani, has a major flaw regarding sexual consent that needs to be immediately addressed and the stakeholders consulted before it becomes law.
With a certain Standing Committee so much in the news, let us look at what is happening with another Standing Committee looking into a Bill to protect children from sexual abuse by adults. Author-activist Pinki Virani, a National Award winner for Bitter Chocolate: Child Sexual Abuse in India , has been lobbying for a comprehensive law on this issue for more than a decade. Here, she opens up on the detailed letter she has sent the Standing Committee on what more needs to be fixed before the Parliament votes it in as a landmark law. Excerpts from an interview…
What exactly does the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Bill, 2011, entail?
It is India's first legislation, ever, to protect children sexually from predatory adults. Children here refer to minors, i.e. ranging from newly-born to 17 years, 11 months and 29 days. At 18, the child becomes a major. To date, there is no law in India to protect those under 18 from paedophiles. The few cases being reported have been tried in adult courts under adult laws and timeframes. The Bill, when it becomes law, will change this.
Of the nine points that you say need urgent attention, which is the most important?
The Bill, bizarrely, introduces a clause that almost legalises child sexual abuse. The clause, paraphrased, says that should an adult sexually abuse a child between 16 and 18 years, it will be examined as if the child “consented”. Surreally, consent has not been taken from the real stakeholders on whether the consent age can be lowered from 18 to 16, thereby disenfranchising this entire age-group and future generations from legal protection against sexual abuse. The stakeholders can, must, and always have to be, those directly concerned.
Who are the stakeholders?
Parents and grandparents, who might also be working professionals like doctors, lawyers, psychiatrists, counsellors and even elected Members of Parliament and Assemblies whose informed insight should help shape the child's rights-space. Teachers and educationists. Young adults above 18. And those in 16-18 age group right now.
What qualifies as consent?
Here is how consent can be misconstrued if this clause is passed. A 16-year-old girl is being taught dance by an adult instructor. Like all perpetrators, he grooms her so that there will be no ongoing objection; slowly he moves in to perform several sexual acts with her. The onus to prove that she did not want “it” will be upon her. As it will on a 17-year-old-boy sodomised by an adult male known to him. Or even one whom he has recently met, and doesn't know that he has been snared into that part of the web looking for “fresh male meat”. For instance, in a chat-room on the Internet, then they meet in person and the boy is sodomised.
Is the age of consent 16 years worldwide?
It differs from country to country. In countries where it is 16, it is understood to mean “informed consent”. These nations also try to ensure that safeguards are in place for their young to fall back upon should they need immediate and sensitive legal assistance, starting with the police moving in to immediately stop the adult forcing himself/herself sexually upon the minor the moment there is a call for help, even if the minor falls in the consent-band. More so since child sex abusers rarely stop at one child/instance. Research indicates that adults can sexually abuse up to 35 children before being identified as paedophiles.
There is also a very real concern in developed nations about the appalling side-effects of child sexual abuse, which tend to criminalise the child and also carry over to future generations. Generally speaking, sexually abused children grow up misunderstanding their original sexuality; some become hyper-sexualised and are traumatised by their bisexuality. Boys can become wife-beaters, girls indifferent mothers. Some grow to become child sexual abusers themselves.
Who decides consent-age?
The stakeholders. Lowering of age requires a differently-worded and independent law; it cannot be a part of this Bill, which needs to be passed through both houses of Parliament after due discussion. Before this informed consent needs to be taken from the stakeholders by spelling out the pros and cons. Stakeholders can be informed through print, TV and radio ads to access a particular site on nic.in. Ministries have enough “advertising money”, which can also be more effectively utilised towards informing stakeholders who do not have access to nic.
With more Indian teenagers having sex at a younger age, what is the harm in lowering the age of consent?
First, don't confuse adults preying upon children sexually with teens experimenting between themselves. Second, there are overwhelming factors leading to too-early sexualisation of Indian teens that need to be addressed. What, then, would be the next lowering of age-band, from 16 to 13, then 10? Third and finally, it is a decision to be taken by the stakeholders, not by politicians alone. As the clause now stands it leaves our children at the mercy of adult sexual abusers.
Will existing laws on prostitution or their stricter implementation help reduce the number of children forced into the flesh trade?
Child prostitution has become pervasive. India ranks high internationally in child-sex-tourism and pornography. With the police cracking down in Thailand and Amsterdam, paedophiles have turned their attention to India. Children form a sickening chunk of the Rs. 40,000 crore commercial sex industry. Of this, 25 per cent of the child prostitutes are between 15 and 18 years of age; this is bound to increase should the “consent” age be decreased.
Given that 53 per cent of Indian children are subjected to sexual abuse, don't you think it is also important to educate children about sex?
Prevention is better than cure always, especially when it comes to child sexual abuse. The HRD ministry must formulate a graded module on sex education — schools can call it whatever they want if they don't want to use the word “sex” — for schools and colleges. This incremental information should be disseminated and each school/college can then apply it to their own cultural environment after discussion and with the active collaboration of their Parent-Teacher Associations. Teachers can conduct one interactive class per year (starting from primary going up to Class XII). The education-modules should include child sexual abuse but not be limited to it and expand age-appropriately to provide holistic information on the body, its rights and its responsibilities.
Would you say that if government reduces the consent age from 18 to 16 without consulting stakeholders, the most vulnerable will be mostly street children, young labour, and college freshers vis-à-vis ragging?
Well, yes and no. What about children who are equally vulnerable in middle and upper-class homes? Research shows that child sexual abuse cuts across class, money and religious lines. The statistics speak for themselves: 50 per cent of the children are sexually assaulted in their own homes. Perpetrators frequently “groom” the child to ensure that it will be compliant. To reduce the age of consent from 18 to 16 is to increase the risk. College-going call-girls and boy-toys/stud-boys would be seen as legally “consenting” when they give sex in exchange for money/drugs/better report cards et al, thereby legalising the use of a young body as barter.
This is the only Bill that, when it becomes law, will protect not only our current generation of children but every generation hereafter.
Police search landfill as baby's mom fends off accusations
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — FBI agents searched a Kansas landfill yesterday in connection with the disappearance of a 10-month-old Missouri girl, just hours after the child's mother said police accused her of being involved.
Agents and Kansas City police spent about two hours at the Deffenbaugh Industries landfill in the suburb of Shawnee, said FBI spokeswoman Bridget Patton, who confirmed that the activity was related to the search for Lisa Irwin.
The girl's parents have said she was snatched from her crib in the night.
Patton said it was the second time the FBI had been at the landfill, which investigators also searched Tuesday — the day the baby was reported missing. Police said agents also used metal detectors to search the family's yard.
Lisa's mother, Deborah Bradley, said Thursday that police told her that she had failed a lie-detector test and accused her of being involved in her baby's disappearance.
Bradley said police never showed her the test results, and she denied knowing anything about what happened to her daughter.
She and Lisa's father, Jeremy Irwin, said their daughter was abducted sometime late Monday night or early Tuesday morning.
Irwin, 28, said he also offered to take a test but police told him it wasn't necessary.
Steve Young, a Kansas City police spokesman, declined to comment on whether the parents have been tested, citing the ongoing investigation.
The couple said police have treated them like suspects. Bradley said detectives told her: “You did it. You did it. And we have nothing.”
Police said Lisa's parents stopped cooperating with investigators late Thursday, but the couple released a statement saying they never stopped and reiterated yesterday that their focus was “to bring Lisa home.”
Sacramento child torture charges echo similar cases
by Marjie Lundstromand
In the dry language of court papers, Duewa Abeana Lee is charged with 12 felony counts of violating California's penal code in a "serious" fashion.
Here is what that means, according to prosecutors, who charged the 36-year-old south Sacramento woman Friday with child abuse, aggravated mayhem and torture of her boyfriend's 12-year-old daughter:
She used a frying pan to beat the child, then a hot clothing iron to burn her back. She used an electrical cord to cause permanent scarring on the girl's back, chest and arms, then stapled her ear to cause permanent disfigurement.
She heated a spatula and burned the girl's hand and buttocks, pushed her head through a window and shoved her down a flight of stairs, court papers state.
These are the allegations in a horrific tale that follows two other high-profile torture cases in the Sacramento region involving teens who escaped their captors after months of extreme abuse.
"What happens is, people don't believe this could happen," said Dr. Deborah Stewart, a pediatrician and child abuse expert formerly associated with the UC Davis Medical Center. "Trust me, they don't believe this could happen."
In this case, though, somebody did – a patron at a DMV office where the girl sought help last Friday. Documents show that the girl slipped away when Lee went to the restroom and the customer she approached sounded the alarm.
In a similar incident in December 2008, a 16-year-old boy who came to be known as Kyle Doe suddenly appeared in a Tracy health club, emaciated and bleeding and chained at the ankle. Investigators soon learned that the teenager had escaped from a home in Tracy, where he had been shackled, beaten, burned and held captive for a year.
Four adults were sent to prison on numerous felony charges, including torture.
This summer, The Bee chronicled the story of 15-year-old Lilly Manning who escaped in November 2007 from a cramped closet in south Sacramento after suffering months of torture and abuse. Her great-aunt, also named Lillian Manning, was sentenced in July to consecutive life terms. The woman's husband, Joseph Horvath, was convicted by a jury in 2009 and also sentenced to life terms.
The allegations in the Lee case go back to July, when her boyfriend was incarcerated and she ended up caring for his 12-year-old daughter.
From July 28 until last Friday, Lee allegedly inflicted such terrible abuse that she was arrested Wednesday and ordered held in lieu of $1 million bail in the Sacramento County jail.
She made her first court appearance Friday afternoon, emerging from a backroom into a holding cell in the courtroom of Sacramento Superior Court Judge Lawrence G. Brown.
Lee appeared to take a step back in shock as she saw four television cameras and a still camera aimed at her, then spoke quietly through the bars with her lawyer, John Casey.
After reading portions of the charges aloud, Brown agreed to a request from the prosecution to double her bail to $2 million, an amount that will be argued at the next hearing on Thursday. Casey declined to comment after the hearing.
Experts say such extreme cases are relatively uncommon.
"Luckily, we see this rarely," said Stewart, who now works at California State University, Chico.
Stewart said torture sometimes accompanies difficult developmental stages in children, such as a crying and colicky 2- to 4-month old, or an adolescent seeking more independence. Stewart recalled one case in which hot candle wax was dripped on a 2-month-old baby's ear.
Perpetrators often have mental health issues, she said.
In Lilly's case, for instance, her great-aunt's trial was delayed for several years by challenges over her mental competency. She ultimately pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to a charge of child endangerment, and guilty to an additional 15 felony charges.
Dr. Randell Alexander, a nationally recognized child abuse expert, said the torture of a child sometimes results from escalating violence. A caregiver begins physically punishing a child and, over time, the acts become more cruel and intense.
"They start out small and they keep adding things and adding things," he said. "At the point where most people would have stopped, they don't. They keep upping the ante."
Alexander said others "get right to the torture."
"They don't go through the escalation process," he said. "A significant percentage of them were treated badly themselves when they were kids, so you see it coming back again."
In grand jury testimony, Kyle Doe described how he was beaten with belts and a mallet if he didn't clean the house or yard properly, or forgot to feed the dog. As in the newest case, his captors also were accused of burning him with hot objects. Kyle said his captors taped his mouth, tied his hands behind his back and forced him to kneel in the fireplace for hours.
Lilly Manning, now 19, whose body is etched with more than 100 scars, was burned with boiling water and routinely beaten with a hammer, a 2-by-4, a pink high heel and a steel-toed boot. She described how her caregivers threatened to kill her and bury her in the backyard.
Authorities said the girl in the latest case suffered severe injuries, as well. She had bruises on her face, mouth, neck, left ear, front, back, both legs and buttocks. She suffered internal injuries to her liver, upper intestine and pancreas.
Many perpetrators come to view the child or teen more as an object – an "it" – than a human being, said Alexander, a pediatrics professor at the University of Florida who has served on the U.S. Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect.
In interviews with The Bee, Lilly Manning repeatedly stated she had a favorite book. Written in 1995 by David Pelzer, it is billed as "an unforgettable account of one of the most severe child abuse cases in California history," and chronicles his years of childhood torture and abuse by his alcoholic mother. The title is, "A Child Called 'It.' "
Man accused of raping boy at Richland day care
by Paula Horton, Tri-City Herald
RICHLAND -- A former worker at a Richland day care center is accused of sexually assaulting a toddler there earlier this year.
Richland police met parents at Kids World Daycare on Friday, and have a dedicated phone line to take calls from concerned parents or anyone with tips about the case.
Lucas Anthony Miller, 21, of Kennewick, is being held without bail in the Benton County jail on suspicion of first-degree rape of a child.
Miller worked at Kids World, 814 Comstock St., from April to August, police said. The alleged sexual assault was reported to Kids World by the boy's parents Aug. 31 and Miller was fired Sept. 1.
Kids World staff called Child Protective Services, who then reported it to Richland police.
According to court documents, a boy told his parents that his day care teacher pinched his nipple and twisted it. It caused a bruise that stayed for about two weeks.
Later, the boy also disclosed other inappropriate touching by Miller, documents said.
Miller was interviewed by detectives Wednesday and allegedly said that the contact occurred while he was changing the boy's diaper, documents said.
A letter from Richland police Detective Damon Jansen was sent Thursday to parents who might have had children in Miller's class. They were told Miller may have been involved in multiple incidents of child abuse, but that he is in custody and "is not a further threat to your child."
Detectives set up the Friday morning meeting at the day care center to answer any parents questions. Representatives from the Sexual Assault Response Center and a child forensic interviewer from Kids Haven also were there.
The state Department of Social and Health Services' Division of Licensing Resources is also helping with the investigation, police said.
Parents were asked to complete a survey to help investigators determine what child or parent may have more information about the case.
In the letter, Jansen also asked parents not to discuss the incident with their children, because of potential risks caused by direct questioning of children who have not previously reported sexual abuse or inappropriate touching.
The risks include jeopardizing the investigation of legitimate claims and could lead to claims of abuse when no abuse happened, he wrote.
Miller has had three other jobs that involved being around children, but investigators said there is no information to suggest crimes were committed at his previously places of employment. They are, however, still investigating.
Miller previously worked at Children's Garden Montessori Preschool in Richland from November 2008 to August 2009 and as a lifeguard at the Tri-City Court Club in Kennewick from May 2009 to March 2011.
He also was a summer counselor for Campfire USA from 2007-09, police said.
Concerned parents or anyone with information about Miller can call Richland police at 942-7371.
Detectives will respond to messages within two working days.
Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Passes Landmark Sexual-Abuse Statute
by Stephanie Woodard
“We're so relieved,” said Mary Jane Wanna, 65, of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate council's passage of a new childhood-sexual-abuse statute, which will allow tribal members to file claims in tribal court. The council approved the measure on September 27, after an energetic four-month campaign by Wanna and other elders, who have alleged they were abused as youngsters while attending a Catholic Church-run residential facility for tribal children. The ordinance provides another legal option for those affected by the South Dakota legislature's 2010 state law—HB1104—which restricts civil claims for childhood sexual abuse by those over 40.
The Sisseton Wahpeton law is the first of its type in the country, according to Vito De La Cruz, Yaqui, an attorney with Tamaki Law, a Washington State firm that was instrumental in the recent $166-million settlement reached with the Jesuits on behalf of hundreds of former students who had charged abuse at the religious order's schools in the Northwest and Alaska. “All tribes have criminal child-sex-abuse statutes, but this is the first civil one and allows plaintiffs whose cases have been dismissed in other jurisdictions to file in tribal court,” said De La Cruz, who added that both state and federal courts honor tribal court judgments.
“Sisseton Wahpeton is giving its tribal members their day in court—in their own court,” said Ken Bear Chief, Gros Ventre/Nez Perce/Nooksak, an investigator and paralegal with Tamaki Law. “It is within tribes' power to hear personal-injury claims against organizations that operated within their boundaries.”
Wanna and others—including her brother Howard, 60, who is dying of cancer and regards his efforts as a way to protect further generations—have advocated for the change since early this past summer. They buttonholed Sisseton Wahpeton officials and talked up the statute at district gatherings, elders' groups, tribal council meetings, a public forum and even the grocery store, said Mary Jane.
“I told one councilor we're always throwing around the word oyate —meaning ‘my people, our people.' And I said to him, ‘ I'm your people,' ” she recalls. “He told me not to worry. Now I hope every other reservation in South Dakota follows suit with a law of their own. It can and should be done.”
When Sisseton Wahpeton's tribal council agreed to turn its attention to the issue earlier this year, Mary Jane's sister Patricia, 61, was elated, saying, “Finally, we're someone. We're not ‘nothing' anymore.” Now, Patricia said, “I feel a weight off my shoulders.”
Critics of HB1104, including Robert Brancato, head of South Dakota's chapter of the national advocacy group Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), have alleged bias. Brancato has noted that the 2010 bill followed a wave of 100-some Native American lawsuits in the state against the Church and its South Dakota boarding schools. The Native plaintiffs are virtually all over 40 because of the time period during which the Church ran the now-notorious facilities. Claims by the Wannas and others at Sisseton Wahpeton are now before a South Dakota state court that has already used HB1104 to nix lawsuits arising from St. Paul's Indian Mission, in Marty, South Dakota.
The Church thought its problems were over, said Howard Wanna: “But they're not. We passed this law, and the lawsuits will let the world know we were molested and tortured. The abuse affected every family on this reservation. We went through hell.”
Mason City man faces 10 more charges of child sexual abuse
by PEGGY SENZARINO
MASON CITY - A Mason City man is facing an additional 10 counts of sexual abuse involving children as young as 8 years old dating back to November 2006.
Michael Goodale, 30, was charged last month with three counts of sexual abuse involving two male juveniles in Mason City and Clear Lake. He was recently charged with five additional counts of sexual abuse in the third degree and five counts of sexual abuse in the second degree.
Assistant Cerro Gordo County Attorney Erica Clark said the additional counts were added following further investigation of the case by the police.
Counts 1-3 allegedly deal with incidents which allegedly occurred on Sept. 9 or 10, 2011, with children ages 12 or 13.
Counts 4-6 date back to January and February of 2011 and allegedly involve a 12-year-old child.
Counts 7-9 date to March and November 2010. The alleged victims were 12 years old.
Counts 10 and 11 involve the alleged abuse of an 8-year-old child in March and July 2007.
Counts 12 and 13 date back to November and December 2006 allegedly involving an 8-year-old.
Goodale is being held in the Cerro Gordo County Jail under $10,000 cash bond, and will be back in court for a bond review hearing 9 a.m. Monday in Cerro Gordo County District Court. His arraignment will also be held at that time.
Goodale was arrested Sept. 20 after an investigation by Mason City police.
Washington man sentenced for traveling from Seattle to Tampa to have sex with child
TAMPA, Fla. – A Washington man was sentenced in federal court Thursday for traveling from Seattle to Tampa to have sex with a 12-year-old, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Michael Goddard, 52, of Bellingham, Wash., was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for using a computer and cell phone to induce and entice a child for sex. Goddard pleaded guilty on May 2.
In August 2010, ICE HSI special agents began an investigation to identify and arrest online predators who were using their computers to arrange for sex with minors and travel to meet minors for sexual purposes. During the investigation, an undercover agent in Tampa, posing as a single mother with a 12-year-old daughter, entered an online chat room and was contacted by an individual later identified as Goddard.
Beginning around Aug. 10, 2010, Goddard communicated in numerous online chats and via cell phone with the undercover agent, and expressed his desire to engage in sexual activity with the "mom" and "daughter." He emailed "child erotica" pictures to the agent to demonstrate what he liked and admitted that he previously had sex with a 13-year-old girl.
On Oct. 6, 2010, Goddard flew from Seattle to Tampa to meet and have sex with the "mother" and "daughter." He was also planning to move in with them.
Goddard was arrested by HSI special agents and Tampa Airport Police Department officers when he arrived at Tampa International Airport.
"This man traveled from Seattle to Tampa to have sex with who he thought was a 12-year-old girl whose mother he met on the Internet. Instead, he was met by undercover HSI agents who arrested him on the spot," said Susan McCormick, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Tampa. "This sentence should send a stern warning to anyone who would even consider doing something like this. We have a strong track record of working with our law enforcement partners and the U.S. Attorney's Office to bring such criminals to justice."
This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda C. Kaiser.
The investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide ICE initiative to identify, investigate and arrest those who prey on children, including human traffickers, international sex tourists, Internet pornographers, and foreign-national predators whose crimes make them deportable.
ICE encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE and its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators.
Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.
Facing the Pain
by Molly Burke
"Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced."
These words can be read on a t-shirt that hangs among many others in the Memorial Union Ballroom.
October is domestic violence awareness month, and UND is raising awareness by hosting the 17th annual Clothesline Project this week, October 3 – 7, in the Memorial Union Ballroom. The Clothesline Project is a t-shirt display that is meant to demonstrate the effects of violence in the community. Each shirt represents a person's story or experience and is decorated by a victim of domestic violence or by a family member or friend of the victim.
Each color of shirt signifies a different type of violence. White shirts symbolize those who have died as a result of domestic violence. Yellow shirts represent battered or assaulted women. Pink or orange shirts are for those have been raped or sexually assaulted. Blue or Green shirts represent survivors of incest or childhood sexual abuse. Purple or lavender are for those attacked due to their sexual orientation and red are for those children who have witnessed violence in their homes.
In addition to the t-shirts, audible reminders of the level of violence in the United States are also present in the Ballroom. A gong sounds every 10 to 12 seconds to signify that a woman is being battered. A whistle sounds every minute to signify that a woman has reported a rape. A bell is rung every 10 to 12 minutes to indicate that a woman has died as result of intimate, personal violence.
The writing on the shirts serves a variety of purposes. Some tell of pain, some tell of triumph and some tell of hope.
During the project, 778 of those who decorated t-shirts were adult victims and 246 were child victims.
One shirt made by an adult read, "You said you loved me so how could you abuse me, your wife and the mother of your children? How? Why?"
Some were made by current or past students of UND. One read, "To all the men of Sigma ____; Is ‘brotherhood' really that special to you? You know he's a RAPIST, but still call him brother. Is your bond more important than the dignity of another?" This t-shirt also had a picture of a fraternity house with a UND flag on it.
Another UND student told her story about a stalker in her residence hall who would tell her about ways he wanted to rape her. She had incriminating messages that she received from him on her phone, yet the police wouldn't help her. Her shirt said, "I was afraid to go outside my dorm. Why didn't the police help me?"
Yet another said, "You're so ‘responsible' that they made you student body President- so take responsibility for what you did- You raped me!"
Some shirts expressed permanent damage such as, "The mind does not forget what the body does," while many advocated hope and change.
One hopeful survivor wrote, "He may have broke my heart… but he didn't break my spirit! I survived."
Some spoke about the healing process. "My life's like a puzzle now and I'm slowly putting the pieces back together."
For some, though, there was no chance for recovery. White shirts in the Ballroom represent those who have already lost their lives to these types of violence.
Several of the shirts have "In loving memory" written on them, as well as reasons for being missed by their dead family members or friends.
Some shirts also display religious symbols. One quotes Proverbs 3:5, which reads "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding."
Still others speak of the effects of the victims' death on their bereaved family members. "When she died, I thought I would die. But I lived to stop the violence."
Whatever method is used, the shirts and sounds provide a powerful visualization of the violence in the Grand Forks community and around the country.
The Clothesline Project will continue until Friday, October 7.
The event is primarily sponsored by the UND Women's Center, but also received help from the Community Violence Intervention Center, The United way of Grand Forks East Grand Forks & Area, and ND Council on Abused Women's services. Anyone with questions or an interest in volunteering should contact the Women's Center at 777-4300.
Scott County fund helps pay for child abuse investigation training
October 7, 2011
by Scott Welton ~ Standard Democrat
BENTON, Mo. -- Money the court collects from offenders will be used to train some Scott County officials in the latest child abuse investigation techniques.
The board of trustees for the Scott County Law Enforcement Restitution Fund approved a total of $6,600 in expenditures for the sheriff and prosecutor's offices Monday, according to Commissioner Dennis Ziegenhorn.
Ziegenhorn said during Tuesday's county commission meeting the restitution fund provides money for unbudgeted purchases.
"Child sexual assault is a big problem anywhere," said Paul Boyd, county prosecutor. "We're doing what we can to stay on the forefront to address it in Scott County."
Boyd said he originally requested $3,600 from the Restitution Fund's board based on a cost of $595 per person to send six Scott County deputies from the Sheriff's Department to Child Abuse Investigations Training Oct. 11 to 13 followed by the Physical and Neglect: Child Abuse Injury Reconstruction Techniques course Oct. 14. Both seminars were offered by John E. Reid and Associates at the Public Safety Building in Park Hills, Mo.
"John E. Reid is a very respected trainer of interrogation and law enforcement investigation techniques," he said.
Reid and Associates ended up providing the county with one additional training slot free of charge since the county paid for six, Boyd said.
As not enough people registered for the physical and neglect seminar, it was canceled, dropping the price to $425 per person, which left enough approved funding to bring an eighth person for training, Boyd said.
"So we're going to be sending 7-8 people to the training based on the availability of the officers," he said. "One of those will be Assistant Prosecutor Amanda Oesch."
Seminar topics will include, among others, "Understanding the Mind of an Offender," which will cover how offenders select, set up and manipulate victims as well as how they rationalize their abusive behavior; "Preparation Prior to the Interview," which explores common characteristics and behavior patters of offenders and evaluating their alibis; and "Behavior Symptom Analysis," which teaches how to evaluate both verbal and nonverbal cues.
"The idea behind sending this group for this training is to make sure each department has someone that can be appointed to conduct the child sexual assault and child abuse investigations," Boyd said. "I want them trained in how to talk to these individuals. Oesch is going so she understand what the officers are doing so she can better explain it to juries."
Also approved Monday by the Restitution Fund board was $3,000 for the Sheriff's Department to conduct drug investigations, according to Boyd.
The Scott County Law Enforcement Restitution Fund was approved in October 2004
Defendants can be ordered by judges to pay up to $300 in restitution for offenses they are found guilty of or plead guilty to, except for speeding, careless and imprudent driving, traffic sign and signal violations or class C misdemeanors, with these fees going to the Restitution Fund.
The board, which consists of five county citizens who are not current or former employees of the sheriff or prosecuting attorney's offices, oversees how money from the fund is spent.
"All funds expended will be kept in a journal for a review by auditors," Boyd said.
Also during Tuesday's County Commission meeting:
* Commissioner Donnie Kiefer noted the Missouri Department of Transportation is scheduled to begin work Monday on a construction project replacing the bridge over Caney Creek on Route 77 between Chaffee and Oran.
According to a Tuesday news release from MoDOT, Route 77 will be closed from the Route EE/A intersection to Route W until mid-December.
Commissioners are hoping to get the word out to county residents and other motorists in the area so they can plan alternate routes.
"We just want people to be aware it's going to be happening starting next week," Kiefer said. "We're encouraging people to use the state routes when they can because our county roads are going to be so busy with farmers using the roads for their crops."
Improvements to the Route 77 bridge are part of MoDOT's Safe and Sound Bridge Improvement Program which aims to improve over 800 of the state's lowest-rated bridges by winter 2013, according to the news release.
* Ziegenhorn said he appreciates the sheriff once again bringing trustees from the Scott County Jail to Sikeston to clean up after the Cotton Carnival Parade.
Rock Hill child abuse cases up from last year
Police say higher number may not mean more incidents
by Nicole E. Smith and Kimberly Dick - The Herald
ROCK HILL -- The number of child abuse-related incidents in Rock Hill has skyrocketed this year, but police don't think that number necessarily means more children are being abused.
There may just be more cases being reported, said Lt. Brad Redfearn, spokesman for the Rock Hill Police Department.
Last week, four people were charged with unlawful conduct toward a child in two separate Rock Hill incidents. That brings the total number of these cases to nearly 30 in 2011 so far.
There were six cases in all of 2010.
More than 3 million cases of child abuse are reported in the United States each year, according to Childhelp, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping child abuse and child neglect victims. Each report can include more than one child.
Several factors are contributing to the increased number of reported cases in Rock Hill, Redfearn said.
For decades, he said, child abuse has been a "taboo subject" no one seemed to talk about.
"Now there are so many groups and groups at schools that are taking a stand for the children," Redfearn said. "Whenever people see others doing that, they also want to take a stand for children and make sure they're brought up in the proper environment.
"Also, it is reported more in the news media, so people are seeing stories about it. It's reminding them of people they might know, people that might be their next-door neighbors, and they feel the need to call."
Redfearn also credits more trust of Rock Hill police for the increased reporting. "If you don't have the trust of the community, they will not call."
The police department has a detective dedicated to handling child and elder abuse cases.
Three Rock Hill parents were charged last week after police found six children living in deplorable conditions in a house shared by 11 people, police said.
Aaron Hart, 34, D'Aundra Hart, 26, and Twanna Roseboro, 33, were arrested Sept. 27 after police and the state Department of Social Services were called to investigate their run-down, bug-infested house. Children ages 7 months to 13 years were living inside.
The 11 people were living in a three-bedroom, one-bathroom Blanche Circle home that had missing doors, floorboards and holes in the walls, according to a Rock Hill police report.
Police found insects and piles of trash and clothes throughout the home, the report states. Three children were sharing one bed, and a crib was dirty. Police weren't able to find enough food to feed all six children, and there was no milk or formula for the two babies.
The home smelled of foul odors, the report states, and police determined the house was unsafe and not suitable for the children to live in.
Roseboro faces three counts of unlawful conduct toward a child; D'Aundra Hart faces two counts and Aaron Hart faces one count.
Wandering the streets
That same day, police say, a driver found two small children crossing a busy Rock Hill road while their mother slept.
Anna Puckett, 22, was charged with unlawful conduct toward a child after her two sons, ages 2 and 5, were spotted by a driver at Saluda Road and Heckle Boulevard, according to a Rock Hill police report.
The driver saw two boys trying to cross Heckle Boulevard around 10:40 a.m. She stopped, called police and waited with the children until officers arrived.
The children's mother told police she had fallen asleep inside her Saluda Road residence and didn't lock the door, the report states.
The boys left the apartment, police say, and walked about 200 yards through the nonresidential area to where they were found. They had already crossed the busy intersection once and were crossing back when the driver saw them.
Neither child was injured.
The Department of Social Services investigated both cases, and the children were released to family members.
Last month, teachers at two Rock Hill schools noticed suspicious injuries on students and alerted authorities of possible child abuse. Under state law, school employees must report any suspicions of child abuse.
No charges have resulted from those reports.
Earlier in the year, seven children were taken into emergency protective custody from a Rock Hill home after officers found them living in "deplorable conditions" and wearing filthy clothing in a house that "smelled of feces and urine," according to a police report.
The parents - Sabrina Boone, 32, and Robert Tolf, 47 - were charged with seven counts each of unlawful conduct toward a child.
People who suspect a child is being abused should report it to police, spokeswoman Marilyn Matheus said.
"The Department of Social Services relies on the community and our partners in the community to help keep children safe.”
Breaking the cycle of exploitation
by ALLISON KENNEDY
How many girls on career day raise their hands and admit they want to be a prostitute?
When she was a child, Sharon Saffold-Harris had no such aspirations. “Lawyer” was more like it.
But then, after being molested by two separate step-fathers, young Sharon found herself on the streets, getting paid for sex and trying to escape the attention of the state. Between 80 percent and 90 percent of prostitutes are molested as children, statistics show.
“I learned how to dodge DFCS (Department of Family and Children Services),” said Saffold-Harris, who at age 14 had a 23-year-old boyfriend who kept her in fancy clothes and new hairstyles. She used to get dropped off at school wearing six-inch heals.
Saffold-Harris, representing the Georgia group “A Future. Not a Past” gave an impassioned presentation about sex trafficking Thursday at Open Door Community House. The social services agency aims to start a conversation locally about this issue.
About 30 people, representing law enforcement, government, churches and other groups, attended.
On any given month in Georgia, according to “A Future. Not a Past,” 2,700 men exploit 400 adolescent girls for sex. Most of those are in the Atlanta area. Saffold-Harris said 400 girls is a conservative number but through research believes it's accurate.
The exploitation crosses all racial and economic lines, she said.
The stereotype of sex trafficking is a hidden, drug-infested life in the inner-city. But just as common is a businessman flying into Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport who “orders” a type of woman for the evening before flying back home to his family, she said.
“It's a fast-growing business, and it will continue if it stays in Open Door's community room,” said Saffold-Harris, who did eventually become a lawyer. She has six daughters.
Saffold-Harris broke the cycle in her mid-20s. She got a temporary job at a downtown Atlanta law firm and, six weeks later, was hired by the temp agency that sent her. She worked her way up through the company. She bought her first house when she was 26 and her second two years later. Now in her 30s, Saffold-Harris makes advocacy for young women and children her life's work.
“We have got to help them live their dreams,” she said. “When they lose, we have to promise them a fighting tomorrow.”
Allison Kennedy, 706-576-6237
Hostages of child prostitution
Las Vegas social worker Marisela Quintero tries to help girls who have all but sold their souls to pimps. Some run even when offered a way out. Others wind up dead.
by Ashley Powers, Los Angeles Times
Marisela Quintero read the headline. She winced, as if she'd been punched.
Emma had been killed.
Emma was 17. She had recently been arrested on prostitution-related charges in a Motel 6 parking lot, wearing a skin-hugging tank top, high heels and booty shorts. She'd flashed a fake driver's license and, in her purse, carried eight latex condoms and a bottle of vodka.
Photos: Teen prostitution in Las Vegas
Quintero, the county's only social worker assigned primarily to child prostitutes, couldn't get her to admit her real name at first. Emma had been too terrified, but not of what might happen in court. What would her pimp do if he thought she'd turned on him?
Eventually the court sent her back to her family in California. That was two weeks ago. Now, the news story said she had been shot to death, with no suspects named.
Had it been a mistake to send Emma away? Did her pimp think she had snitched?
The possibility was not far-fetched. These men were masters at manipulating and dominating the teenagers. They sweet-talked the girls in shopping malls and Greyhound terminals, bought them pedicures and wigs, plied them with drugs and gave them the attention they craved. Once ensnared and working as prostitutes, the girls could fall victim to pistol-whippings and gang rape — sometimes, even worse. It was all part of what Quintero and others bleakly called "the game."
Quintero feared for her next client, Maria, who was more tightly tied to her pimp than Emma had been.
Maria was 16.
Las Vegas is a major hub of child prostitution with an international reputation for depravity.
A recent study by the nonprofit Shared Hope International said 224 girls and two boys accused of prostitution-related offenses churned through the juvenile court system here during a nearly two-year period. About a third were from California. Almost a fifth were younger than 16, and many said between five and 15 men had purchased their sexual services each night they worked.
After their first arrest, girls were usually detained for about two weeks. Quintero met them then.
Success was measured by how long Quintero could keep them away from the pimps. The more time spent in group homes or with supportive relatives, the better the odds that they wouldn't sprint back to the streets. And maybe they could be persuaded to testify against the men who corrupted them, who demanded money and sex and sometimes the honorific "Daddy."
Still carrying the story of Emma's death, Quintero entered the interview room at the Clark County juvenile detention center. Maria — high cheekbones, blond highlights, toothpaste stain on her county-issued blue sweat shirt — began to vent. Her neglectful and abusive family. Her rape by a family friend. "My mom said I was lying," she told Quintero. "Whatever."
Maria was 12 when she "chose up" with her first pimp, who gave her marijuana and waved around $100 bills he promised she'd make. After that came a blur of drugs and vicious men and arrests.
Then she met the pimp she now considered her boyfriend. She giggled describing how he'd gently teased her. Later, he punched and raped her, she told Quintero, but apologized nearly every time. Two years ago they had a son.
Maria's latest arrest came as she trolled for men one morning at the Planet Hollywood casino on the Las Vegas Strip.
Quintero mentioned Emma's killing. Maria picked at her eyebrows.
"I'm not scared to die anymore," she said.
It was surreal, Quintero thought. She's 16 and doesn't care.
"Do you still feel a bond with your son?" Quintero asked.
Maria's face softened. "Yeah, I love him so much."
It was an opening. Quintero suggested placing the boy with one of Maria's siblings. She also tried to gauge where Maria could stay without fleeing, as she had so many times.
"You're smart. You have all that potential," Quintero said.
"I'd hate to read about you in the paper."
"If someone wants me dead, they want me dead," Maria shot back.
The next day, Quintero slipped into Courtroom 18, where Judge William O. Voy presided over the weekly juvenile prostitution calendar. Maria waited in a hallway.
Girls shuffled in, their hair in ponytails, their faces scrubbed of makeup, their fingers stripped of acrylic nails. The parents who showed up squirmed. When mothers and daughters hugged, their faces were woeful, as if both were apologizing.
In Las Vegas, the girls are treated as victims, not criminals, a relatively new tactic. Solicitation charges are usually dropped in favor of less severe offenses. Then Quintero will consult with prosecutors, defense attorneys, probation officers, group homes and the girls' relatives to recommend to Voy where the girls should go next.
That can be tricky. The girls struggle with multiple problems: drug addiction, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder.
On this morning, in February 2009, Emma's slaying seemed to hover over the proceedings. Emma had shown promise when she revealed her identity. Voy had approved her release to California. Now she was an example of what could go wrong.
Maria walked into the courtroom, her expression sheepish. She'd been here before, vowing to turn around her life.
Voy called on Quintero. Where should Maria go?
"At this point, regardless of what we do, it's going to be a risk," Quintero said. She turned up her right palm, as if to say, what choice do we have?
Put Maria in the group home, Quintero said next. Reevaluate things in a few weeks. Voy agreed. Maria smiled.
Then Quintero talked to Maria and scribbled notes: shoes, 9; pants, 9; shirts, M/L.
Maria had nothing of her own besides socks and a blouse, potentially giving a pimp an opening to woo her with niceties. So Quintero pawed through V-necks, corduroys and bags of underwear at an on-site donation center. She packed a bag: hair spray, razors, lavender shampoo-conditioner, "Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul," and a flowered journal because Maria liked to write poems.
Quintero tried to shake off her misgivings: With a bag of stuff, was it easier for Maria to run?
A week later, in Voy's courtroom, the judge was grim. The night after Maria's hearing, she ran off. Quintero never found out if she took the bag.
"God, that worked good, huh?" Voy said, almost to himself. "She lasted until 8:30." Long pause. "The kid's wearing me out, man. I'm sorry. She's going to end up dead."
Over the next few months, Quintero did some detective work. One of Maria's relatives helped track down her Myspace page.
Maria was still alive. But she'd returned to prostitution. Her profile displayed lots of cleavage and a fake age: 24.
Quintero emailed her: "Hey, girl. I hope you're doing okay.... I'm still here if you need anything. Take care."
Quintero was not quixotic. Her own childhood in California showed that people could exceed their surroundings. Her parents had sneaked into the country illegally, but eventually became citizens. Her mom worked in housekeeping, her dad at a factory that made shower doors. For a time, they could afford only gang-ridden neighborhoods in Carson.
Quintero became the first person in her family to earn a college degree. Now she was 28, married and a mother, working with teens who needed a family but instead found a pimp. Quintero sometimes found them exasperating, but often inspirational too. They had survived so much.
Maria soon wrote back. She was fed up with her pimp and felt suicidal. "I BELIEVED THAT HE LOVED ME AND AFTER WHAT HE DID TO ME THIS TIME I THINK THAT ITS TIME TO LAY IT DOWN AND GO ON HOME TO MY GOD."
"You have so much to live for!!!" Quintero replied. "Your son needs his mom. Let me help you.... Where are you?"
Not long after, Maria called, her bravado back. She had been traveling, she said nonchalantly. Everything's fine.
She cut off contact.
Quintero wasn't surprised.
A pimp uses every psychological trick to weld a girl to him. He has her tattooed with his name. He gets her pregnant. He convinces her that prostitution is an act of romantic devotion. He claims hotel bellmen conduct surveillance for him — so don't run. But he rarely uses his fists. That might sideline her from the game.
Trying to sever the bond was next to impossible. Victories for Quintero were usually smaller and messier. But they happened.
Quintero had another client at the lockup: Annie — 13 and pregnant.
Investigators wanted her to testify against a pimp, who might be the father. She wasn't sure.
Annie toyed with her hair, which she had untwisted from petite braids. Her own mother meant well, counselors concluded, but had poorly supervised the girl and her siblings. She went to school infrequently, told counselors she'd experimented with drugs.
Annie was in detention after snatching a cellphone from a woman on a bus. Police suspected she and at least two other girls had been sexually abused, if not "turned out," by a pimp. All three were slated to testify against him on multiple counts of pandering and sexual assault.
Annie's lower lip pouted. Other girls in detention said testifying meant betrayal. If dragged into court, she huffed, "I'm not gonna say nothing."
But she did, begrudgingly.
The day of the hearing, in April 2009, Annie wore one of Quintero's maternity tops — the donation center had no shirts to cover her belly — and munched on potato chips and cheese crackers.
Inside Courtroom 8C, the suspected pimp sat at the defense table: a 6-foot, 160-pound, dark-skinned man in his late 20s with thick braids, a mustache and an empty stare. He'd told Annie she was pretty and seduced her in his Cadillac. She'd recruited one of the other two girls to work as a prostitute for him.
Annie climbed onto the witness stand, near a pot of yellow flowers. The prosecutor asked for graphic details of the times she and the man had sex. Her replies came in near-whispers.
"First I was sitting and then I started lying down and I guess I just had sex."
You were 13?
Annie tucked in her limbs and used one hand to hide much of her face.
When she finished an hour later, Quintero followed her to the hallway. Annie's face was ashen. She plopped on a bench. Another girl who'd testified ran over and asked: Did he look at you?
"I don't know. I didn't look at him."
"He smiled at me," the other girl said, with a hint of giddiness.
"Oh," Annie replied flatly.
Annie was soon placed in a new facility for pregnant teens, with her own bedroom, bathroom and white crib, but she ran home to her mother a few weeks later. Quintero saw her briefly before she delivered a girl.
Quintero took comfort in the outcome at court: The pimp pleaded guilty to child pandering and was sentenced to at least three years in prison.
It was December. Nearly a year had passed since Emma's death, and Maria had disappeared. Quintero sat in the back of Voy's courtroom. The court marshal stuck his head out the door and called for a teenager who'd come to the courthouse voluntarily.
It was Maria. She was in a brown sweater and ripped jeans and had loosened her hair to hide scarring she hadn't had months ago. Her eyes were weary.
Maria was accompanied by her mother. She'd recently moved back home, she said, because she wanted to see her son and had some legal issues to settle. She told Quintero she was thinking of turning over her pimp to police. When Maria said his name now, it was as if she were spitting.
Was she sincere?
At least she wasn't dead. Quintero knew that might be all she could hope for. After the hearing, Quintero asked Maria where she'd been for 10 months.
"You know, around," said Maria, who quickly changed the subject.
A short time later, Maria vanished. She reappeared briefly in September 2010, when she was brought into court on a warrant. She said she'd rented an apartment and found work as a dancer.
Quintero hasn't heard from her since.
This story is based on several months of observing Marisela Quintero and her clients under the condition that the girls be identified using pseudonyms. The Times does not typically identify the alleged victims of sex crimes or persons under 18 who are charged with crimes.
Times reporter Ashley Powers also reviewed numerous court records, including arrest reports and hearing transcripts, and interviewed Quintero and her husband, Noe; Judge William Voy; Susan Roske of the county public defender's juvenile division; Alexis Kennedy, an assistant professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, co-writer of the Shared Hope International study; representatives from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and the county district attorney's juvenile division, and experts in child prostitution.
Missing Mo. girl's parents say they're cooperating
Associated Press / October 7, 2011
KANSAS CITY, Mo.— The parents of a missing 10-month-old Missouri girl planned to make a public statement Friday after police announced that the couple had stopped talking with detectives investigating the baby's disappearance.
Jeremy Irwin and Deborah Bradley didn't speak to the media Thursday night after a police news conference accusing them of no longer cooperating, but relatives read a statement insisting they never had stopped. The family said the couple would have more to say Friday.
"We've been cooperative from day one, and we continue to assist the police with the investigation," the family statement said.
After their Thursday night news conference, authorities announced they were shutting down the command post about a mile from the family home. Police spokesman Darin Snapp sent out a news release saying authorities believed they had done everything they could "regarding geographic searches."
Authorities released few other details and reiterated they still have no suspects in their search for Lisa Irwin, whose parents say was snatched from her crib sometime late Monday or early Tuesday. Kansas City police spokesman Steve Young declined to elaborate on what would happen to the investigation without the parents' cooperation.
"Tonight, they decided to stop talking to detectives, and I don't have to illustrate how that affects the investigation. That speaks for itself," Young said.
Earlier in the day, Irwin and Bradley spoke to the media about frantically searching their home for any sign of their daughter earlier this week after her father came home from work early and she wasn't in her crib. They said they found an open window, an unlocked front door and house lights blazing, and later discovered that their three cellphones were gone.
But Young said the parents' claim that whoever took their daughter also stole their cellphones hadn't produced any leads.
"They told us three cellphones were missing. It hasn't produced anything we can go forward with," Young said. "The investigation is directed and handled by hard information."
Family members didn't take questions at their news conference Thursday night, and police didn't immediately return a call for comment about the family statement.
Lisa has blue eyes and blonde hair, is 30 inches tall and weighs around 28 pounds. She was last seen wearing purple shorts and a purple shirt with pictures of white kittens.
Investigators focused their search Thursday on a heavily wooded area, sewers and an industrial park. About 100 officers scoured the industrial area and adjacent woods, while others were lifting drain covers and crawling inside.
Earlier in the day, a cousin of the baby's mother said Lisa's parents have given police more than a dozen names as they try to think of potential suspects or people who paid especially close attention to the child.
"We're scraping for anything, anyone who was at the house, who looked at her strange. Anything," said Mike Lerette.
Irwin said he immediately knew something was wrong when he returned home from work about 4 a.m. Tuesday. He checked on their other children, 6-year-old and 8-year-old boys, then went to Lisa's room and discovered her gone.
"I said, `What do you mean she is not in her crib?'" said Bradley, who had checked on her daughter about five hours earlier. "I just knew, you know, that something was really wrong. We ran around the house and screaming for her, but she was nowhere."
Bradley said that's when they discovered the phones had been taken, guessing it was to delay them from calling police. As she hugged her crying sons, Bradley said, Irwin checked outside and eventually contacted police.
"All I can think of is that maybe somebody wanted a baby," she said.
San Diego, California Fundraiser with author
San Diego, California Fundraiser with author: 7 p.m. Oct. 11 at the Jewish Community Center, 4126 Executive Drive, La Jolla. Dave Pelzer, author of his memoir of childhood abuse, “A Child Called ‘It,'” will attend this event.
Proceeds will go to Promises2Kids, a local nonprofit that works to end child abuse.
Tickets are $16 general admission, $12 for students and community center members, and $40 for VIP (6 to 7 p.m.).
Information: (858) 362-1348 or sdcjc.org.
Sex abuse support group receives funds
October 6, 2011
A Saskatoon organization that provides support to victims of sexual abuse is expanding its services.
Saskatoon Sexual Assault and Information Centre Inc. is receiving $112,000 from the provincial government to provide support programs to adults who were abused as children, says a news release issued by the Saskatchewan Justice Ministry.
"The new program is intended to fill the gap for nonresidential services left by Tamara's House: Services for Sexual Abuse Survivors Inc., which recently closed its doors, while continuing to ensure the ongoing needs of victims are met," said the release.
The $112,000 will cover startup costs and six months of operation for the Support of Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse Program. In total, the provincial government provides more than $250,000 annually to the Saskatoon centre.
Tamara's House closed in April after federal government funding was cut and the non-profit organization did not find other sources of funding. When news of the closure surfaced, Justice Minister Don Morgan said the province had not been approached for more money and that the grant the government did provide to Tamara's House would be moved to another agency to provide programs for sexual abuse survivors.
Jury: NC hospital negligent in child abuse case
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (AP) - A Cumberland County jury has awarded a boy and his father $25 million, ruling that a hospital was negligent when its employees didn't notice the boy was a victim of child abuse.
But The Fayetteville Observer reported (http://bit.ly/nrNvOS) that Cape Fear Valley Health System will pay less than the jury's award to 14-year-old Ajamu Gaines Jr., and his father. The two sides reached a private settlement following the verdict Monday.
Testimony showed Ajamu was brought to the hospital in 2003 with old and new broken bones, and again three months later with a brain injury to the then 6-year-old.
An attorney says the hospital disagrees with the verdict.
Ajamu lives in Charleston, W.Va., with his father, who says the money will ensure lifelong care for his son.
HS coach charged with sex assault of child
Cedric Mason, 41, is out on bond facing two charges of sexually assaulting a child. Investigators say the assault happened over the summer in Mason's apartment.
HOUSTON (KTRK) -- A high school's boys basketball coach accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl has turned himself in.
Officials say although the alleged assault had nothing to do with the school, because he is a coach, they are concerned there could be more victims out there.
Mason is charged with two counts of sexually assaulting a child. Police say over the course of one week last July, Mason allegedly assaulted the 14-year-old girl inside his apartment on El Dorado Boulevard. The girl immediately out-cried to her mother.
"After the outcry was made, the victim was taken to the hospital, and the sexual assault exam was done," said Officer John Colburn with the Houston Police Department. "HPD crime lab was able to determine there was DNA evidence in the sexual assault kit, and the comparison by the HPD crime lab revealed that it did link up Cedric Mason to the investigation."
For the past eight years, Mason has worked at La Marque ISD, becoming the head boys' basketball coach during the 2007-2008 season. On Wednesday afternoon, the school district said Mason is now on paid administrative leave.
Statement from La Marque ISD:
La Marque ISD policy requires all employees to inform the district of any criminal allegations that may be filed against them.
Cedric Mason, La Marque High School head basketball coach, informed the district through legal counsel about his cooperation with the Harris County District Attorney's office, based on two allegations of sexual assault with a minor. The allegations against Mason occurred during the summer and did not involve any LMISD students.
The administration will conduct a thorough investigation of the alleged incident. Mason is cooperating fully with the district. In a situation such as this, the district disciplines employees based on the employee code of conduct and the severity of the incident. Currently, the district has placed Mason on administrative leave during the investigation and pending the outcome of the aforementioned allegations.
Throughout his tenure in the district, Mason has conducted himself in a professional manner and has been a model employee. The district has never received any reports or incidents of any impropriety against him. Mason is cooperating fully with both the school district and the Harris County DA's office and expects to be exonerated of all allegations.
Officer Colburn said, "He denied all allegations. He came into the office and spoke with me. His attorney was present at the time. He denied all allegations of sexual contact."
Mason turned himself in on Wednesday and posted bond. He wasn't home Wednesday afternoon when we tried to contact him, but his attorney told us over the phone that her client is ready to mount a vigorous defense. But police say they're concerned about other possible victims.
"It's always disturbing in situations when you have someone with his influence on the community," Officer Colburn said. "Any kind of sexual abuse of a child by someone who has that kind of involvement in the community is very disturbing."
The school district is conducting its own internal investigation while Mason is on administrative leave. Officials are not yet certain how they will handle the boys' basketball season.
Trafficked: Oakland parents organize to protect girls from sex trafficking
( Download Audio
In East Oakland, the street economy ranges from selling CDs out of your car to braiding hair at bus stops. But the underground marketplace can be a slippery slope to illegal activity, like selling guns, drugs, and sex.
Decades ago, several motels opened up shop in the East Oakland neighborhood of San Antonio. And the motels' steady stream of clientele included pimps. Sex trafficking is now a rampant problem in Oakland, as we found out last year in an investigative report produced by Youth Radio:
BRITTNEY: I wake up at five I'd be outside by like 5:30. And then I won't be able to come back inside until like 2 o'clock in the morning…
DARLENE: You honestly have to believe that they are more than a girl on the corner, you know, they are somebody's daughter, somebody's niece. They're being sold out there. Some people are standing on the corner selling fruit while other people are standing on the same corner selling a girl.
Since that story aired, parents and advocates in the neighborhood have continued their fight against pimps who target their young daughters. Youth Radio's Denise Tejada brings us this follow-up report.
* * *
DENISE TEJADA Over the last year, parents and advocates in the San Antonio neighborhood became active when they realized pimps were targeting their middle school girls.
NHUANH LY: We are here at Roosevelt Middle School…
Nhuanh Ly is the program coordinator for Banteay Srei, a group that works with neighborhood girls to build self-esteem and to teach them how to avoid being recruited by pimps. School district officials say it's hard to prevent because the pimps just look like regular guys.
LY: It happens at the bus stops, it happens in front of homes, and it happens in front of schools. Not too long ago, one of the girls who attends our afterschool programs called me and she was really, really distraught. She was like, “Nhuanh! Nhuanh! I can't believe this just happened! A pimp just tried to recruit me and he actually picked me up in his car.”
Ly says, the average age girls get recruited into trafficking in the U.S. is 12 years old. People often think girls end up being trafficked because they were kidnapped. But many times, it can start with a seduction or even a relationship. So Ly encourages families to have frank conversations early about dating and sex.
LY: Yeah it's awkward talking to your parents about sex, right. A common response for parents is to try to shut their children away from seeing this. But the reality is that it's so visible and it's so prevalent that we can't do that.
It's so prevalent that families can look outside their windows and see pimps.
REYNOLDO TERRAZAS: See that corner over there, see that corner over there? Pimps are coming down here…
Reynaldo and Jody Terrazas raised two girls in this neighborhood. They live a block from the National Lodge Motel that the community has been fighting for years, saying pimps run their business from it. From their living room, the Terrazas's also have a view of International Boulevard where girls, some barely teenagers, stand on the corners.
JODY TERRAZAS: Little girls, you bet. Very skinny. They probably weigh 100 pounds, maybe 115 pounds. Some of them look very confident and bold about what they are doing. And then there are times, they look like they are trying to get away, to hide. They don't want to be here.
When you walk up to the National Lodge Motel you have to be buzzed in. I'm greeted by a small women sitting behind a thick glass window, like a bank teller. She wouldn't answer any of my questions, so I called the office later and talked to Rita Patel, who is part of the family that owns the motel. Her response to neighbors' fears about sexual exploitation of minors?
RITA PATEL: No we don't accept prostitutes here.
TEJADA: You don't at all?
PATEL: No, we don't.
ANDY NELSON: Since we started pushing, the city attorney filed a lawsuit against this motel...
Andy Nelson is the deputy director for organizing and public policy at East Bay Youth Center. He's pleased that the City of Oakland has officially joined the fight – and is suing to shut down the National Lodge Motel for allowing prostitution and sexual exploitation of minors.
NELSON: Since we started pushing, there were a couple more officers who were assigned here and there has been a lot more willingness to talk to us and to try to work collaboratively. The concern is: What would happen if we stopped pushing?
That pushing includes marches, rallies, and meetings with the mayor, the city council and the police. Andy Nelson's motivation to keep pushing? His 4-year-old daughter.
NELSON: As she gets older, it's going to be challenging. But every time I see a young girl out there you know … Every time I see a young girl out there, I see my daughter.
Until recently, Nelson says a lot of neighborhood parents felt there was nothing that could be done to stop sex trafficking. He says getting rid of the National Lodge Motel is not going to solve the problem, but it would be a big accomplishment. Nelson and others won't give up the idea that Oakland's San Antonio neighborhood can be a good place to raise kids.
For Crosscurrents, I'm Denise Tejada.
This story was produced by Youth Radio as part of their Peabody Award winning series Trafficked. You can find the full investigation online at their website.
Trailblazing State Law on Human-Traffic Bogs Down
The law is meaningless without enforcement, says Velma Veloria, a former Washington State representative who introduced the 2003 bill. She was the first Filipina-American woman to serve as a state lawmaker.
Veloria became concerned about the problem of human trafficking after killings in the state of several so-called mail-order brides; women who arrive from foreign countries through brokers (or traffickers) and enter financially and culturally dependent partnerships with relative strangers that can leave them abused and legally stranded - and many times unable to speak the language.
Rob McKenna, Washington's attorney general, says law-enforcement agencies and prosecutors weren't properly educated about the trafficking law and how to use it.
"Penalties weren't high enough to make it an attractive enough (solution)," McKenna says.
Since 2008, McKenna says his office has increased its training programs for law enforcers and prosecutors.
Sex trafficking in Washington has involved girls as young as 12 and younger. Many have been lured into prostitution by street gangs or family members in a quest for drugs or money or some combination of those factors.
The average age of entry into prostitution in the United States is 12 to 14 years old, according to the state's attorney general's office and other sources.
In January of this year, state penalties for commercial sex trafficking and sex trafficking of minors were toughened. Now the commercial sex abuse of a minor, defined as "exploitation in which a commercial sex act is induced by force or coercion or in which case the person induced to perform sex acts is a minor -- or under 18," is a felony equal to a first-degree rape charge. It's now punishable by seven to 10 years in prison rather than the previous two-year sentence. Those convicted of selling or buying minors must also register as sex offenders for 15 years after serving their sentence.
But McKenna says there is much more to do. "For me, where we are with human trafficking today is where we were with domestic violence 30 or 40 years ago. There is a really low awareness that the problem exists, there is inadequate training of law enforcement agencies and social service providers and there are few, if any, services for victims."
Fear of Reprisal
James Dold is policy counsel for the Polaris Project, an anti-trafficking group that helps victims and works for systemic change. He says the lack of prosecutions can be tied partly to victims' reluctance to testify out of fear of reprisal.
Dold says Washington is "ahead of the game" compared to many states in providing victim-protection services. But adds that, "We need for all involved to be under the assumption that these women are victims--there needs to be a victim-centered policy," he says.
Washington is one of only two states in which persons under 18 are immune from prosecution under trafficking laws.
"There's a need to focus victim protections and services and have witnesses who will cooperate. It's hard to make sure victims feel safe and comfortable in order to testify against the bad guys. These laws begin to get at that in order to put protocols in place like social services and different resources from agencies … like shelter," Dold says.
Former U.S. Rep. Linda Smith, founder of the Vancouver-based Shared Hope International, an organization that rescues victims of sex trafficking, says traffickers are not the only perpetrators. She thinks a sharper legal eye should be cast on the people who create demand for sex traffickers.
"We can focus on the pimps as bad guys but as far as I'm concerned, the men out there shopping for sex, buying someone else's 13-year-old daughter, are the ones who should be spending their lives in jail," says Smith. "They've certainly taken (the victims') lives."
Smith says the goal should be taking a protective stance toward the victim--emotionally, physically and psychologically--and giving her or him the same service as other victims of violent crime.
Women's Groups Involved
Former state Rep. Veloria worked on passage of the 2003 anti-trafficking law alongside a number of other women's rights activists, including Sutapa Basu, director of the Women's Center at the University of Washington.
Their activism was galvanized by trainings and information provided by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Women Policy Studies, a group founded in 1972 that provides analysis and research on a number of gender-sensitive issues, including human trafficking.
"When they learned (more) about trafficking through seminars we do, they worked their brains out," said Leslie Wolf, president of the center. "They took their education and brought it to legislation. They are great advocates for people in the state."
The State Department estimates that 2 million children are subjected to prostitution in the global commercial sex trade. Sex trafficking has devastating consequences for minors, including long-lasting physical and psychological trauma, disease (including HIV/AIDS), drug addiction, unwanted pregnancy, malnutrition, social ostracism and possible death, according to their Trafficking in Persons Report 2011.
Domestically, a 2009 University of Pennsylvania study estimated that nearly 300,000 youth in the United States were at risk of being sexually exploited for commercial uses, "most of them runaways or thrown-aways,"
Veloria, the key backer of the path-breaking 2003 law, says she always knew that laws, in and of themselves, wouldn't end the problems.
"We need to address women's poverty, immigration and language barriers," she says. "We need to address the problems women have and help them."
Human Trafficking Film to Air in Bend
from KTVZ.COM News
October 5, 2011
BEND, Ore. -- There are hundreds of thousands of modern-day slaves in America... and they're mostly kids. Now, a powerful documentary about human trafficking is being screened in all 50 states.
Here in Oregon, it's only being shown in Portland and Bend - and you don't want to miss it. It's called 'Sex + Money,' and it's a feature-length film created by five young journalists, who conducted more than 75 interviews with victims, federal agents, and activists across the country.
Human trafficking has become the second largest and fastest growing criminal industry in the world, second only to the drug trade. Every year, as many as 300,000 kids are being sexually exploited in the U.S.
Nita Belles, the director of Central Oregonians against Trafficking Humans, says children here are becoming victims, and people need to become aware of the warning signs.
According to OATH, one of three runaway teens will be lured towards sex trafficking within 48 hours of running away, and in a recent nationwide FBI sting operation Oregon ranked second in victims recovered.
The documentary is being shown at Westside Church in Bend Thursday at 6:30pm. Doors open at 6:00, and the show is free. Content is geared toward a mature audience, so children under 12 will not be admitted. To learn more, visit www.sexandmoneyfilm.com, or www.cooath.org
Mother Amy Blose, 37, Charged with Sexual Abuse of Boy, 13
October 5, 2011
A mother and wife, Amy Blose, age 37, has been charged with multiple incidents of sexual child abuse with a boy of 13. After she was released on bail she slips her underage lover a note saying she will love him forever. This sick woman never gives up.
After being charged with three counts of rape, three counts of forcible oral sodomy, one count of lewd or indecent acts to a child under 16 and one count of performing lewd acts in the presence of a child under 16, Amy Blose goes back to her daily chore of picking kids up after school. While doing so, the alleged child molester slips her victim a note through the boy's female friend saying, "Hey Babe, I love you forever." Is this audacity or just pure stupidity? Maybe it's a further attempt to have power over her victim.
Amy Blose, a nurse, was released on $20,000 bail back in April before passing the note. On September 30, she was back in court face charges she had violated her bail. Blose had passed the note and one of her conditions of bail was the she was not to have contact with a person under 18 years of age. The judge decided she should spend the time until her trial for sexual abuse in the Cleveland County, Oklahoma jail.
This was not the first time Blose had tried to have contact with victim according to a friend of the victim's family. It was just the first time she was caught. The friend, Angela George went on to say, "It's a horrible situation, but quite honestly, this is the best place for her so that our kids can rest easy."
Amy Blose now sits in jail and hopefully she will wake up to a new reality. Whatever would drive a 37-year-old nurse and to have sex with a 13-year-old? It is possible this young boy will think of his experiences with his predator to what sex is all about. They poor child will forever be scared, even if he does not realize it for now.
Child abuse homicide convictions at 88%
Oct. 4, 2011
SALT LAKE CITY, Oct. 4 (UPI) -- In Utah, child abuse homicide offenders appear to be convicted at a rate similar to that of adult homicide offenders, researchers found.
Dr. Hilary A. Hewes and colleagues of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City examined homicide data from the National Violent Death Reporting System in Utah for all deaths classified as homicides between January 2002 and December 2007 to compare the conviction rate and sentence severity between child abuse homicide offenders and adult homicide offenders.
The authors identified 373 homicides in Utah during the study period, of which 52 cases, or 15.6 percent, were child abuse homicides. Under Utah law, child abuse homicide is when someone's abuse of a child under 18 years old results in the child's death
Of the 52 cases, 34 were within Utah's jurisdiction and had a suspect identified. Suspects were found guilty in 30 of the 34 cases, for a conviction rate of 88.2 percent. Of 268 adult homicide cases included in the study, 135 cases had a suspect identified. Among these, 112 convictions, or 83 percent, were obtained.
The study, published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, found that in addition to the similar conviction rates for child abuse homicide and adult homicide, defendants were found guilty of similar levels of felonies and received similar punishment.
Appleton schools expand requirement for reporting child abuse
About the abuse reporting policy
Oct. 4, 2011
Under state law, school district employees required to report abuse are teachers, administrators, nurses, counselors, social workers, alcohol and other abuse counselors, physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, occupational therapists, audiologists, dieticians, speech and language pathologists and other medical or mental health professionals. Teaching assistants and other support staff are not mandatory reporters.
The proposed Appleton Area School District policy would require all school district employees to report abuse.
APPLETON — With a former teacher's child abuse case working its way through the criminal justice system, the Appleton Area School District is reworking district policy to require all its employees to report suspected child abuse or neglect, even those who are not already required to report abuse under state law.
Also new in the proposed policy is the creation of an ombudsman to look out for students' interests when abuse is suspected. One staff member would serve as an ombudsman for the district, assisting mandatory reporters — employees required by state law to report abuse — as well as other employees once they are required by the more stringent school district policy to report abuse. Individual schools would also have a staff member designated as an ombudsman.
"We're making everyone a required reporter as an employee of the school district," School Supt. Lee Allinger said Tuesday. "And if you don't feel comfortable telling your building principal, there is someone else you can go to in the district, or in your school, who is not in a supervisory role. It takes away any second-guessing of 'Should I do something?' Everybody knows where their responsibility lies."
Wisconsin law requires mandatory reporters to immediately inform police or child welfare officials if they suspect abuse or neglect.
Mandatory reporters are teachers, administrators, nurses, counselors, social workers, alcohol and other abuse counselors, physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, occupational therapists, audiologists, dieticians, speech and language pathologists and other medical or mental health professionals. Teaching assistants and other support staff are not mandatory reporters under state law.
The Board of Education's personnel panel endorsed the changes this week. Full board approval is expected Monday.
The policy revision comes as a case involving a former Appleton special education teacher who was accused of physically abusing children with cognitive disabilities in her classroom makes its way through the Calumet County court system.
Mary C. Berglund, 54, taught special education at Janet Berry Elementary School and was initially charged last winter with 10 felonies stemming from classroom incidents involving her students at Berry from 2009 through last January.
Berglund is accused of abusive behavior against five children. The case is currently on hold, waiting for the appointment of a judge to handle the case because of Judge Donald Poppy's recent retirement.
An educational assistant reported the abuse to school officials. She had documented Berglund's activities for nearly two years before coming forward.
Parents and staff raised concerns, noting some employees who are not mandatory reporters are hesitant to tell someone in authority of their suspicions.
Jeff Spitzer-Resnick, managing attorney for Disability Rights Wisconsin, said steps Appleton is taking are "groundbreaking and that is to the Appleton Area School District's credit."
While Wisconsin Association of School Boards officials said there are some districts moving in this direction, Spitzer-Resnick said he is "unaware of any district in the state that has in its policy a requirement for nonmandated reporters to report child abuse. I'm also unaware of any school district that has established an ombudsman."
He said that addition is a response to one of the settlement requirements of his clients in their civil case against the school district. He represents families of four of the five children involved.
"We expressed concerns that staff did not feel safe reporting and that needed attention," he said. "This was one of our demands in trying to resolve the case with the district and the district was receptive to our demands and gave me an opportunity to review a prior draft and make some suggestions. I'm pleased we are moving forward on this piece."
State may strengthen law
The state may be following Appleton's lead soon.
A bill introduced in the state Senate by state Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, last spring would extend the legal reporting requirement to everyone employed by a public school.
That bill passed the senate and legislation is scheduled for an assembly floor vote this month.
Val Dreier, Appleton's assistant superintendent for school/student services, said the district's revised policy outlines the steps that would be taken and provides additional support for personnel who have previously not been required to report.
If an employee does not make a direct report to child protective services or police, they must inform their building principal, other district administrator or the ombudsman of their suspicions.
Dreier stressed that the ombudsman will not be an administrator, and will not have any authority to impose discipline on other staff. The role involves assisting employees in making their reports to county Child Protective Services and will be an "alternative source" for staff, she said. "It's another safe place. This gives staff another opportunity to get some help in going forward."
Appleton's child abuse and neglect reporting policy is typically reviewed at the start of each school year.
Allinger said he plans to inform families of the changes by mail once the policy is approved.
The Outagamie County's Child Protective Services department is doing workshops on recognizing child abuse and requirements of mandatory reporters for all staff.
"We will have added trainings spread out throughout the year for new staff and long-term subs," Dreier said.
Dreier said employees have already been informed all staff will be responsible for reporting suspected abuse and neglect.
Nigeria: Preventing Child Sexual Abuse Is Whose Responsibility?
by Princess Olufemi Kayode
This week, we shall go further into the discussion of who is responsibility for protecting children.
One female adult survivor said in group counseling, "As a child victim, I felt unprotected and vulnerable. I felt I had parents and also don't have them. They were not significant." Another, male adult survivor said, "I hated my parents. Particularly my mum... sobs...sobs...She was the most blind.
She could not see. She was home most times when I was being sexually abused."
I could go on and on about different reports that are indicators to the feelings of these survivors when they were children. The feeling of helplessness and hopelessness!
A couple of weeks back we established that adults have the sole responsibility of protecting children against Child Sexual Abuse.
This week, I shall be sharing a contribution on same topic on ways adults can rise up to this responsibility sent in by Ms. Adeola Francesca Abiola, a Snr. Programme Officer with Media Concern Initiative.
Responses can be sent by email, Vanguard Postal Address or SMS to 0802 333 1036.
Channels through which parents can prevent sexual abuse
The first way in which adults can prevent child sexual abuse is by using appropriate names for body parts with children.
As simple as this might sound, so many adults find it difficult to tell their children the names of their sexual organs. Some would rather use names such as pepe, John Thomas and so on instead of telling a boy that his sexual organ is called penis. For the girls bum bum is used as a covering word for both the buttocks and the vagina.
The argument for this is that most adults would feel it is vulgar or would corrupt a child if they knew what the proper names of the body parts were called. However would we rather leave a child to find out the names and functions of these organs through an abusive situation rather than from parents and guardians who they love and respect.
An experience that shows that ignorance or misinformation can expose them or make them vulnerable to abuse was something I encountered in whilst in secondary school.
One of my classmates was sharing an experience. Her mother had warned her sternly never to allow a man 'sleep on top of her'. Ok, she thought no man will sleep on me till I am old enough. One day a neighbor called her asked them to go into his bedroom. He tried to lie on top of her and she refused saying her mother had told her that no man was allowed to sleep on her.
Well I won't want you to disobey your mother, so instead I'll allow you to be on top. That was how she was abused and this continued. This could have being prevented if the mother had explained to her what and what it was that was not supposed to happen to her.
Identifying the use of each part of the body has become important in the prevention of CSA. Even if sexual abuse does occur a child that has been adequately informed is more likely to report the abuse than a child who is not.
Book offers non-threatening way to talk to children about sexual abuse
by Gracie Bonds Staples
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
October 3, 2011
One in four girls and one in six boys nationally will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday, according to the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy.
Of those, less than 10 percent will ever tell, even though they know their offender 90 percent of the time.
That alone, child counselors and advocates say, is reason enough to shift much of the conversation about child sexual abuse away from strangers to the people we know.
And so soon after her daughter was born in 2008, Tatiana Matthews, a Dunwoody mother and licensed professional counselor, said she felt compelled to go beyond helping repair the sexually abused children she saw in her practice each week. She needed to somehow prevent the abuse from ever happening, and so one evening, Matthews sat down and penned "Fred the Fox Shouts No!,” offering parents a way to talk openly about the issue with children ages 3 to 10.
The 24-page book not only introduces the concepts of private parts and personal rights but seeks to empower children to use their voice to protect themselves and to swiftly report abuse when it has occurred.
Instead of continuing to cover such old territory as stranger danger, Matthews takes on the equally important but less talked about aspect of child sexual abuse: family and friends.
"We've sort of made the perpetrator look like the dirty old man in a raincoat, but really it's a family member or friend," said Nancy Chandler, CEO of the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy.
After years of attending continuing education conferences, Matthews found herself face to face with victims of sexual abuse in her Alpharetta practice. The numbers she'd grown so familiar with were no longer just a set of digits strung together. They were real people.
“I saw the numbers being validated over and over again,” said Matthews, a 37-year-old mother. “It was scary.”
Continuing to focus on stranger danger is to avoid the real problem, said Chandler, whose organization has been training adults on how to prevent child sexual abuse since 2006.
"Child sexual abuse is a public health issue, and it's imperative that we teach people how to prevent it," she said.
To date, Chandler said, the agency has trained about 19,000 people and continues to offer training every month. Anyone interested can call 678-904-2880 or log onto www.georgiacenterforchildadvocacy.org.
Because talking about sexual abuse still makes parents uncomfortable, Matthews hopes "Fred the Fox" can serve to break the ice a little.
“It's not a topic that many parents want to think about, let alone talk about,” Matthews said.
The book, which costs $17.99, is available online at www.fredthefox.com. Matthews said she will donate a portion of the profits from the sale of the book to organizations that promote healthy and safe children.
"Fred the Fox" is already receiving rave reviews from local parents, many of whom say they have heard stories of children being molested.
Kara Krohn, a 38-year-old mother of two young children, purchased the book a month ago.
“I'd been struggling with finding a way to talk to my 4-year-old son about sexual abuse,” Krohn said.
The Dunwoody mom said she particularly liked the book because it encouraged participation from the children.
“It's a serious subject, but they do a good job of presenting the issue in a non-threatening way,” she said.
Her son Max particularly enjoys it “because he gets to yell ‘no' louder and louder.”
Patty Childs, principal at St. Jude the Apostle Catholic School in Sandy Springs, said she recently purchased the book for her school library.
“It's sad that we would have to have the conversation, but it's not a topic we can bury our heads in the sand over,” said Childs.
Childs said "Fred the Fox" is appealing to children, perhaps, "because it is interactive and children tend to listen to the message a little better sometimes than when you're just talking to them about it.”
Of the 20 or so people she sees each week at her practice, Matthews said that 10 to 20 percent have been sexually abused, and all of them had close relationships with their perpetrators. Most of them were family members or very close friends.
“Yes, we have to be vigilant with strangers, but in regards to sexual abuse prevention, it's much more about safety with people that we know and people that we trust,” she said.
Perpetrators generally align with parents and kids and so are more likely present at the places kids frequent, such as sporting events, schools and churches.
Perhaps most startling, Matthews said, is this: 50 percent of all sexual offenders are under the age of 18.
“We're not just talking about adult-children interaction. We're talking about the fourth-grader who acts out on the second-grader or two kids of the same age where one is dominating the sexual play,” she said. “It is about when coercion or force is used to have another child engage in sexual play that it is then no longer considered developmentally appropriate.”
Tips for recognizing signs of sexual abuse
- An increase in nightmares and/or other sleeping difficulties
- Angry outbursts
- Difficulty walking or sitting
- Withdrawn behavior
- Pregnancy or contraction of a venereal disease, particularly if under age 14
- Propensity to run away
- Refusal to change for gym or to participate in physical activities
- Regressive behaviors depending on their age (return to thumb-sucking or bed-wetting)
- Reluctance to be left alone with a particular person or people
- Sexual knowledge, language and/or behaviors that are unusual and inappropriate for their age
Abuse survivors wanted to challenge perceptions
by Emma Sykes
A Queensland University of Technology (QUT) researcher is seeking participants to take part in a study of how people overcome traumatic childhood sexual abuse.
According to Sheryle Vilencia, a PhD researcher from QUT's School of Psychology and Counselling, childhood sexual abuse affects a large number of people in our community, and is far more common than people 'like to admit'.
"Something like one in four girls and one in seven boys [are abused] - it's a large number of our community that have been affected by this trauma.
Such an important issue in the community, Mrs Vilencia is seeking participants to take part in a study of how people overcome traumatic childhood sexual abuse.
The research will form the basis of a book for survivors, and a second book for practitioners, aiming to draw attention to the healing processes of people who have suffered contact sexual abuse as a child.
Says she wants the study to provide a contrasting view to the hopelessness pervading public opinion.
"What we see out there in the public perception and also in literature is that there is these widely held ideas that just because someone has experienced child sexual abuse that they're then at the mercy of a large array of negative outcomes.
"Child sexual absuse is accompanied by many negative outcomes - we know that it can lead to anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress, but we also know that their ability is heal and come through this [experience] is boundless.
Mrs Vilencia also hopes the study will highlight to current and future survivors of abuse that people can overcome the negative outcomes of such an experience.
The study is looking for well functioning, psychologically healthy women, over the age of eighteen who have experienced childhood sexual abuse that they felt was traumatic, and have now begun healing, or feel that they are well healed from the abuse.
"We want to speak to any women who feels they fit what the study is looking for," she says.
Participants who engage in the study will be interviewed one-on-one, for approximately 2 hours and should feel open to discussing how they overcame any stress associated with the abuse.
The study is open to women across Queensland, and Mrs Vilencia says interviews can be done remotely over the phone.
The initial study will focus on women, but Mrs Vilencia says a follow up study will explore the healing processes for men who've experienced similar childhood sexual abuse.
Participants will not be identified in any of the research reports or publications.
Mrs Vilencia believes anything that promotes a sense of 'ease around the topic' is going to be positive.
"It should be every persons right who has been abused to be able to own that and to be comfortable to say this has happened to me - and to receive adequate support.
"Unfortunately it's not always the case - but opening up discussions around this can only serve people going through it now and people going through it in the future."
Those interested in taking part in the study can email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Similar punishments for adult, child homicide
Oct 3 2011
by Genevra Pittman
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - People suspected of child abuse homicide are just as likely to get convicted, and have similar sentences, as those who are arrested for killing an adult, according to a new study from Utah.
There have been questions about how courts rule on cases involving violence against children compared to violence against adults, with some studies suggesting that suspects of child abuse aren't as likely to be found guilty or aren't penalized as severely. But that was not the case here, say the authors.
"The most important thing we can do is prevent child abuse... and in the end prevent this from ever happening," said Dr. Hilary Hewes from the University of Utah, who worked on the study.
Still, "I thought it was very reassuring that we value children's lives and we take it seriously when they're lost," she told Reuters Health.
Child abuse homicide is defined as a guardian acting or failing to act in a way that results in a child's death, but doesn't count as aggravated murder. In this study, the definition included abusive head and stomach trauma, as well as asphyxiation and burning.
Using a statewide database of violent crimes, Hewes and her colleagues found 334 cases of adult and child non-justifiable homicide between 2002 and 2007.
That included a total of 66 child homicides, 34 of which were categorized as child abuse homicide, were under Utah's jurisdiction and had suspects that were alive to be prosecuted. Out of all adult crimes, 135 suspects were identified.
Both adult and child offenders were convicted at a similar rate -- 83 percent and 88 percent, respectively. In addition, both groups of suspects were just as likely to receive the highest types of conviction, a capital crime or felony 1, or to get a sentence that included the possibility of life in prison.
The researchers wrote in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine that the results may not apply to other states, especially places where more youth deaths happen as a result of gang violence, or where medical examiners aren't as thorough about determining cause of death in childhood victims.
But for child abuse crimes in particular, the similar rates of conviction and severity of sentencing show that courts were not being easier on suspects in child cases, despite some beliefs that those crimes "lack intentionality" compared to people who kill adults.
"I think there is a different perception between crimes against children versus crimes against adults because of the huge age difference between the victims," said Wendy Walsh, from the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, who wasn't involved in the new study.
Walsh was part of a study that found that in the 1980s and 1990s, child abuse cases were less likely to lead to charges being filed once they went to the prosecutor.
But in this case, she told Reuters Health, "I'm not surprised they did find these similar results, given the extremely aggressive, violent nature of these crimes."
SOURCE: bit.ly/oPnFuO Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, online October 3, 2011.
October is Child Abuse Prevention Month
Protecting children is a community responsibility
TORONTO , Oct. 4, 2011 /CNW/ - More than 47% of adult Ontarians have been exposed to or know someone who is the victim of child abuse and neglect. This is one of the many reasons Ontario's Children's Aid Societies continue to educate the public about their community responsibility to protect children.
In October, the Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies (OACAS) and Ontario's Children's Aid Societies (CASs) across the province promote Child Abuse Prevention Month through public service announcements, media relations, local events and initiatives. The Child Abuse Prevention campaign aims to educate the public about the prevention of abuse, supports available to families and everyone's responsibility to protect children and youth. Every Ontarian has the opportunity to make a difference in a child's life by learning the signs and being vigilant for markers of abuse and neglect, and by contacting their local Children's Aid Society if ever there is a concern that a child is at risk of harm or their family needs help.
According to Mary Ballantyne , Executive Director of OACAS, "Everyone concerned about the safety and well-being of children and youth should be aware of the risk factors for abuse and neglect and ways to prevent situations from escalating that put children at risk. Knowing who to call for help and making the call to your local Children's Aid Society to provide services and supports to a family in need or care for a child at risk of abuse or neglect is critical to ensuring children are safe and well cared for."
This year, the OACAS partnered with the Canadian Centre for Child Protection to educate the public and concerned parents and caregivers about protecting children from sexual abuse and online exploitation. Thanks to funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, the Canadian Centre has developed The Teatree Tells Interviewer's Resource Kit as a new tool to assist workers in interviewing child victims of sexual abuse and exploitation, and will be distributing it free-of-charge to CASs across Ontario later this month. Parents can also visit teatreetells.ca to download a free copy of the Teatree Tells Parent Guide and other important resources.
"The issue of child sexual abuse is not an easy subject to talk about for families and communities, and as a result the topic does not get the attention it warrants except in situations where a professional trained in this area is involved. As adults, we all have a responsibility to learn about this issue so we can protect children from being sexually abused," said Noni Classen, Director of Education at the Canadian Centre for Child Protection. "We are so pleased to partner with the OACAS to get these important materials into the hands Ontario's child welfare professionals."
Also this year, OACAS partnered with local visual and text-based artists to create a public art installation, "Our Hope for Children", that debuted at Toronto's Scotiabank Nuit Blanche event on October 1 . The art exhibit fused diverse portraits and words to illustrate a community's hopes and dreams for children and also encourages both participants and viewers to share in the responsibility of keeping children safe.
Everyone in Ontario can help protect children in their community. Learn more, visit www.useyourvoice.ca, www.oacas.org/hope, www.teatreetells.ca or contact your local Children's Aid Society.
About the Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies: OACAS is a membership organization representing CASs in Ontario. The Association has served its members, the community, the public and the government in a variety of ways since 1912. Today, OACAS provides service in the areas of advocacy, public education, youth in care, information management, education and training, and member outreach. OACAS is the voice of child welfare in Ontario.
Human trafficking: Washington works to stop demand
The key to stopping forced labor and sex slavery - also known as human trafficking - is to stop demand.
by Andy Hobbs
The Seattle area ranks among the top in the world for sexual exploitation of minors, according to Robin Schildmeyer of Genesis Project, an organization dedicated to protecting young women victimized by human trafficking. The organization provides a 24-hour safe house, and estimates the average age of entry into prostitution is 13. Many of the victims are runaways with a history of sexual abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, and poverty.
Human trafficking is especially prevalent in Washington because of the state's ports, said Sen. Tracey Eide (D-District 30).
Both Eide and Schildmeyer were panel members at an awareness forum sponsored by Soroptimist International of Federal Way and held in a packed council chambers Sept. 29 at City Hall.
Eide introduces a resolution on the Senate floor every Jan. 11 for Human Trafficking Awareness Day. She and fellow Senate colleague Jeanne Kohl-Welles are staunch advocates for human trafficking victims in Washington.
The state Legislature has been chipping away at human trafficking since 2002, with the creation of a task force and the "Mail Order Bride Act." That law, enacted after a pair of mail order brides were murdered by their husbands, requires matchmaking organizations to notify the would-be brides in their native language that they have a right to a background check on clients.
In 2003, Washington became the first state to pass a law that criminalizes human trafficking. Since then, a series of laws have addressed restrictions on sex tourism, along with confidentiality and benefits for victims. In 2012, the Legislature will attempt to restrict advertisements for escort services related to underage victims.
Human trafficking cases have also hit the Federal Way area in recent years.
Five residents from Federal Way and Auburn were charged in 2008 with conspiracy to engage in forced labor of a 16-year-old Afghan immigrant. Three men arranged for the girl to immigrate to the U.S. two years before when she was age 14. One of the men attempted to marry the girl, and was accused of sexually assaulting and beating her. During her time in the United States, the girl allegedly was forced to perform household chores for two other residents.
"This is something as a police department that we can't do alone," said Police Chief Brian Wilson, one of the panel members at the forum. He noted the need for schools and social service agencies to assist law enforcement in finding both victims and perpetrators.
Federal Way police have had success with prostitution sting operations, Wilson said. He described one operation in which detectives dressed as prostitutes and walked Pacific Highway South - sometimes attracting a line of two or three cars containing customers waiting to negotiate services. In just a few hours, police nabbed more than a dozen potential johns that night, Wilson said.
In fact, prostitution is so prevalent on Internet site Craiglist.org that an officer could make an arrest within any given two-hour window, Wilson said.
"I'm very much in favor of going after the predators," he said.
In the South Sound area, Sisters Against Human Trafficking is an organization dedicated to raising awareness. At the Sept. 29 forum, Sister Donna Fread noted the minor success that came from a bus ad campaign. More than 20 buses in Pierce County displayed a message to "Stop the demand." She described one case involving a pair of young girls held at an apartment in East Tacoma, where an adult woman advertised the girls online and set them up with men.
"We are working to educate and make people curious about human trafficking," Fread said, noting that her organization is currently compiling a resource booklet to assist with victims.
Chris Johnson, policy director for Attorney General Rob McKenna, credits the growing grass-roots support for allowing the state to "chip away" at human trafficking. A major victory against human trafficking came in 2009, when Seattle pimp DeShawn "Cash Money" Clark, 19, became the first person in Washington to be convicted of human trafficking. Clark was sentenced to 17 years in prison.
Johnson noted that the Seattle Police Department offers training statewide for law enforcement agencies in dealing with human trafficking. He also praised current initiatives on the state and national levels, such as the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2011.
"Where we are with human trafficking is where we were with domestic violence 30 years ago," said Johnson during the forum. "We have a long way to go."
Failing Fight Against Human Trafficking Requires Overhauled Strategies
by Erin Crossett
It was a difficult summer in the battle against human trafficking, according to the State Department's 2011 Trafficking in Persons report. Citing few countries' success in adopting anti-trafficking laws, the report draws attention to 11 countries that dropped into Tier 3, the category for those which have made the least progress or even regressed in the adoption and enforcement of human trafficking prevention laws. Joining the ranks of Iran, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia, Tier 3 countries such as Lebanon, Libya, Yemen, and the Central African Republic reflect failed human trafficking prevention policies and require a more grassroots approach to eradicating human trafficking networks.
Cross-border sex trafficking, forced prostitution networks, and forced labor all fall under the umbrella of human trafficking. While exact figures are difficult to quantify, the International Labour Organization estimates that at least 2.45 million people — predominantly women and children — were trafficked between 1995 and 2004. The victims often grew up in societies facing crippling poverty, a lack of education and economic empowerment, post-conflict violence, and the lack of rule of law. They were approached by recruiters promising better lives, higher wages, and lavish jobs in industries such as hotel management. Oftentimes, parents cannot afford to care for their entire family, so they offer their children to recruiters, knowingly or unknowingly of the fate that awaits their child.
Once convinced to leave their homes, victims are sold like slaves to brothels or sweatshops and forced to work at the behest of their owners. Young females sold into sex slavery are drugged, beaten, starved, and deprived of a living wage. Addiction to methamphetamine is a common result of sex slavery, and many sex slaves will die of AIDS before they reach 25. If they manage to escape, few aids are at their disposal seeing as brothel owners (particularly in India and Cambodia) pay hefty bribes to police officers to remain open. This creates a cycle of corruption and abuse that continues as long as incentives to traffic women and children exist.
Anti-human-trafficking policies are some of the most difficult to implement because trafficking is often deeply embedded in societies where corruption is rampant and social imbalances are entrenched.
Top-down approaches rarely work, as the recent Trafficking in Persons report showed us. Even if multilateral agencies such as the ILO, UNDP, and UNICEF receive pledges from countries willing to adopt international standards against human trafficking, no mechanism is in place for signatory countries to actually enforce them, and the cycle continues.
Countries with severe trafficking problems must create localized programs that aim to serve different needs. Victims should be provided with job training, access to education, and health care, while local law enforcement officials must provide incentives, monetary or otherwise, to blow the whistle on known traffickers or brothel owners. When a police officer refuses a bribe from a brothel and pursues legal action, he or she is making the prostitution much costlier for the brothel owner. So costly and risky, in fact, that the owner is likely to close the brothel and enter a more lucrative industry. Markets shift frequently, and the sex-trafficking market is no exception.
Countries like Cambodia, the Central African Republic, and Lebanon must enact localized, grassroots anti-trafficking initiatives as a means of eradicating forced labor all together. Only when key actors like local law enforcement officials and recruiters are provided with an incentive to blow the whistle will the costs of running a brothel far outweigh the benefits. Human trafficking may seem far too entrenched to solve, particularly in war-torn and poverty-stricken countries; however, these countries have the most to gain by enacting rule of law initiatives and ending forced labor.
'A Future, Not a Past': Seminar on sex trafficking to be held Thursday at Open Door Community House
by ALLISON KENNEDY
A seminar about sex trafficking in Georgia, “A Future, Not a Past,” will be held Thursday at Open Door Community House, and the executive director only hopes the forum will spark further conversation and action.
Sharon Saffold-Harris of the statewide campaign, “A Future, Not a Past,” will help lead it.
“This is something we have to have a voice about,” the Rev. Kim Jenkins of Open Door said Monday.
Each month in Georgia, about 7,200 men knowingly or unknowingly pay for sex with adolescent girls; and at least 400 girls are exploited each month in Georgia. They are exploited on the streets, through escort services, at hotels and online, according to statistics provided by Open Door, a social services ministry affiliated with the United Methodist Church.
Meg Olive, the Family Support Specialist at Open Door, has studied the issue of international sex trafficking for years.
About two years ago, she and Jenkins attended a three-day training on the prevention and awareness of trafficking.
Jenkins said girls and teens in Columbus may be particularly vulnerable to sex trafficking because of the city's proximity to Florida and Atlanta.
More girls under 18 are prostituted in Georgia on a typical weekend night than are killed in car accidents in the state in an entire year: 129 versus 58, according to “A Future, Not A Past.”
The campaign, a project of the Atlanta-based nonprofit Juvenile Justice Fund, formed in 2007 through a partnership between a private family foundation and the Atlanta Women's Foundation to stop the prostitution of children in Georgia.
The forum begins at 3 p.m. Thursday at Open Door, 2405 Second Ave. It's free. Call 706-323-5518 for more information.
Peru sex slavery: Police free 300 women in Amazon
Police in Peru say they have rescued nearly 300 women from sexual exploitation in a raid in the country's Amazon region.
At least four people were arrested in Puerto Maldonado on suspicion of human trafficking.
Among those rescued from about 50 brothels were at least 10 minors - the youngest was a 13-year-old girl.
More than 400 police took part in the three-day operation in the region, known for its illegal gold mining.
The region has seen an influx of fortune-hunters trying to make a living from the trade.
Prosecutors say young girls are lured to the area by women who travel around offering them jobs in shops or as domestic helpers, but that the girls often end up being forced to work as prostitutes in local bars.
Last month, the charity Save the Children said that more than 1,100 underage girls were being used as sexual slaves in illegal mining camps in the south-eastern Peruvian state of Madre de Dios.
Camps set up along the main highway have also attracted unlicensed bars used for prostitution.
The gold rush is contributing to the destruction of the rain forest and contaminating the environment with tons of mercury, used in processing the precious metal.
Peru is the world's fifth largest gold producer.
From the White House
Over 2,000 Agree – 1is2Many
by Amy Dudley
October 3, 2011
In the weeks since Vice President Biden launched the 1is2Many initiative – a call for young women and men to share their ideas on how to prevent dating violence and sexual assault at their schools and college campuses – he has received more than 2,000 responses via the www.whitehouse.gov/1is2many and Twitter.
Earlier today, the Vice President thanked everyone who submitted their ideas via Twitter.
Many responses highlighted the importance of educating boys and girls early on about healthy and respectful relationships. A number suggested upgrading campus infrastructure by improving lighting or ensuring that campus police are always accessible.
Others discussed the less tangible, but equally important, task of reshaping campus culture so that it supports victims who report abuse and redefines what it means to “be a man.”' And several people who replied proposed strengthening legal and enforcement responses to violence against women, emphasizing accountability at all levels.
These and other great ideas caught the Vice President's attention. Here's a taste of some of the great responses that were received:
- Elizabeth, Amherst, MA: “There should be a way for students to safely, discreetly, and immediately report suspect behavior or violence to on-call campus authorities. For this to work, it would be imperative for the reporting student to remain anonymous, and that campus police/volunteers are trained in sensitivity issues.”
- Brennan, Hilo, HI: “I think it'd be great to come up with profiles of men in our cultural histories who have taken stands to prevent violence and abuse. Respecting women should not be a threat to masculinity, but rather a fulfillment of true manhood.”
- Alyssa, Maryville, IL: “[Y]ou should work with student councils around the world. [I]n order to inform younger kids and teens about the realities of abuse, student councils are the best option. It would be incredibly easy to start on state and local levels to raise awareness. Let the Student Councils of America help you raise awareness.”
In a special appearance on The View last week on the issue of teen dating violence and sexual assault, the Vice President addressed the important role technology and peer to peer communication can play in addressing the problem – another common theme of 1is2Many responses. Before his appearance, the Vice President illustrated the importance of utilizing this new technology by sending the first official text to the newly expanded National Dating Abuse Helpline. Young women can now reach out to the Helpline via text or chat 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The Administration is also harnessing new technology to address the issue through the “Apps Against Abuse” challenge. In a contest announced in July, the Administration charged technology gurus to work with experts in this field to come up with new ways to use mobile applications to reach young women and keep them safe. Applications are due October 17th. Learn more HERE.
As Vice President Biden reminded us when he announced the 1is2Many initiative, “We can fight violence against women. But it can't happen without all of you speaking up and acting; it can't end until we make it completely clear that sexual assault and violence against women cannot, will not, be tolerated anywhere, anytime for any reason, period.”
Stay tuned to www.whitehouse.gov/1is2many for the latest on the administration's efforts to address youth dating violence and sexual assault.
National Dating Abuse Helpline : If you or someone you know needs help, text "Loveis" to 77054 or visit Loveisrespect.org.
Amy Dudley is the Deputy Press Secretary for the Vice President
From the FBI
The FBI established the Innocent Images National Initiative in 1995 to address the proliferation of child pornography and child exploitation facilitated by the Internet. A component of the Bureau's cyber crimes program, the Innocent Images initiative takes a proactive, multi-agency, investigative approach that relies on strong domestic and international law enforcement partnerships.
The initiative prioritizes several investigative areas, including:
- Online organizations and enterprises that exploit children for profit or personal gain;
- Major distributors and producers of child pornography;
- Individuals who travel—or are willing to travel—for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity with a minor; and
- Possessors of child pornography.
Protecting our Children
Technology, Partnerships Work Hand in Hand
Investigators dedicated to rescuing child victims of sexual abuse and arresting those who traffic in child pornography are often faced with the difficult and time-consuming task of analyzing hundreds of thousands of illicit images traded online.
That painstaking work is critical to identifying victims and their abusers, however, and members of our Digital Analysis and Research Center (DARC)—part of the FBI's Innocent Images National Initiative—use a mix of sophisticated computer tools and domestic and international partnerships to get the job done.
DARC personnel, who analyze digital evidence in the most significant online child exploitation cases, are currently testing a software tool called the Child Exploitation Tracking System (CETS). The CETS program—already in use in several locations around the world—is designed to streamline investigations and integrate with other CETS operations so that law enforcement agencies can enhance their cooperation and efficiently move their cases forward.
“CETS has tremendous potential for the FBI,” said Special Agent Barbara Cordero, a veteran cyber investigator who manages research, development, and training for the Innocent Images National Initiative. “Eventually, when everyone is plugged into CETS, it will allow law enforcement everywhere to share key information.”
“If I'm in a small police department in Iowa, I might not know that another department in Maryland is investigating the same subject I am investigating,” Cordero explained. “CETS will tell me that, along with other important information.”
Essentially, CETS is a repository that can be filled with records pertaining to child pornography and child exploitation cases. The system can contain images, case information, identities of known offenders along with information about their Internet addresses, and other related material. The program can analyze millions of pornographic images, helping law enforcement personnel avoid duplication of effort. The program can also perform in-depth analyses, establishing links in cases that investigators might not have seen by themselves.
“CETS has the ability to put the same information in one place and make it available in a unified standard for everyone,” said Special Agent Charles Wilder, who heads DARC. “That's important because the Internet has removed all geographic boundaries in these types of crimes.”
The CETS program was created by Microsoft at the request of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police National Child Exploitation Coordination Center—investigators there wanted a system designed specifically for child exploitation cases. The program is now being used in Canada and Australia—and Interpol, the international police organization, is working with several of its member countries to integrate CETS into its existing systems.
The ultimate goal is to expand the number of CETS users and to one day integrate all the operations so investigators can share information in a truly global way. “Right now,” Cordero said, “the immediate benefit for the FBI is that CETS saves us a tremendous amount of time in the image review process. Bad guys who trade pornographic images have massive collections,” she said. “We regularly seize hundreds of thousands of images. CETS makes the review process extremely efficient.”
She added, “The FBI has terrific partnerships with cyber investigators in the U.S. and around the world. As we move forward, CETS will allow us to strengthen those partnerships by sharing more and more critical information. This type of technology is a model for the future.”
Series of failures delayed sex abuse case at kids' shelter
by SUSAN CARROLL, HOUSTON CHRONICLE
The two-story, beige-brick shelter in north Houston was supposed to be a haven for immigrant children and teenagers, a place with teddy bears and bins of toys that they could temporarily call home while they were stranded in a foreign country, separated from their families.
And yet on a sweltering summer afternoon, an 8-year-old boy found himself in an upstairs room of the St. Michael's Home for Children shelter with an older boy, 10, who allegedly sexually assaulted him.
The lapse in supervision by the boy's caretakers was the first in a series of failures that eventually culminated with the federal government's removal of the children from the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston's shelter program, which is approaching its 25th anniversary.
Care for boy delayed
In the hours and days after a staff member interrupted the July 1 assault in the upstairs room, the senior management of the Catholic Charities' program failed to get the boy medical treatment, doctored incident reports and tried to minimize what had occurred in order to "protect the program," according to a federal report.
But it was not just the boy's caretakers who stumbled, state and local law enforcement records show. A worker for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services intake system for reports of potential abuse and neglect also made a mistake, accidentally delaying an outside investigation into what happened for nearly two weeks.
After the federal government brought that error to the state's attention, the case was referred to the wrong agency, leaving it in limbo until it landed with the Harris County Sheriff's Office in August.
In the end, children's advocates say there is blame to go around, calling for accountability for the shelter program management, who are now part of a criminal investigation. They also called for a review of the state's intake system to ensure that technical problems with law enforcement notification are quickly fixed.
"Certainly some fault has to go to St. Michael's for what happened, but if … this reporting went awry and was misdirected in some sort of way, just imagine the hurt that might have been caused to a number of these kids by something not happening soon enough," said Bob Sanborn, president and CEO of the Houston-based nonprofit Children at Risk.
"When it comes to kids, we need to take immediate action."
Details still unclear
It is still unclear exactly what happened in the upstairs room of the shelter. When the Houston Chronicle first inquired about the incident, Catholic Charities officials described it as "sexual activity" between children. It later came out that a shelter staff member, called a "teacher" by the children, walked in on the 10-year-old allegedly sexually assaulting the 8-year-old and immediately told her supervisor, according to Harris County sheriff's reports.
The shelter management did not call the sheriff's office, but they did call the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) Statewide Intake Division roughly six hours after the incident, at 6:34 p.m.
The contents of that report are confidential under state law, DFPS officials said, but Catholic Charities said in a statement on Thursday that "we now believe that the person making the report may have minimized the seriousness of the incident."
Still, any report to that state hotline reporting potential abuse or neglect should have triggered a chain of events, including notification of the licensing division for DFPS and a fax or email notification to local law enforcement, said Patrick Crimmins, a DFPS spokesman.
But the worker at the state intake center was confused and couldn't immediately find a state license for St. Michael's, Crimmins said. The intake report was "mistakenly closed" without notifying the licensing division or law enforcement about any incident at St. Michael's, he said.
When asked why they did not directly contact law enforcement to report the incident instead of relying on the state intake system, Catholic Charities officials said "it is standard procedure for (Texas Department of Family and Protective Services) to report incidents of this nature to local law enforcement."
On July 5, Catholic Charities reported the July 1 incident to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, ORR, the federal agency that places immigrant children and youth caught entering the U.S. illegally in temporary care while the government reunites them with family members.
Those initial reports to ORR, which did not mention sexual assault, became a central focus in a subsequent federal investigation that found staff members and management "had knowledge that a (child) had been anally penetrated as the result of a sexual assault."
On July 5, after hearing preliminary reports about the incident, ORR instructed the shelter workers to get immediate medical attention for the boy, who saw a doctor that day.
Days after the assault, some staff members noted the boy seemed "withdrawn" and "quiet."
On July 13, ORR called the state to check on the status of its investigation, but state licensing officials still had no idea what happened at the shelter.
They re-opened the initial July 1 report and sent out a state monitor to investigate within 72 hours. But the automatic notification system again failed, this time referring the report to the wrong agency, the Houston Police Department. The shelter sits near the city-county line but is within the jurisdiction of the Harris County Sheriff's Office.
On July 15, a DFPS inspector checked the facility for compliance with the state's licensing standards, documenting a string of deficiencies at the facility, including failure to properly supervise the children on July 1.
Crimmins said the shelter corrected the deficiencies outlined in the report, and was back in good standing with the state.
On Aug. 5, sheriff's office detectives officially took over the investigation, based on a DFPS referral. When a child psychologist and forensic specialist interviewed the 8-year-old boy, he reported being sexually abused or assaulted on "several occasions" and by a second child, who was 11, said Deputy Thomas Gilliland, a sheriff's office spokesman.
By mid-August, ORR was suspicious enough about what happened at the shelter that day to send a team of monitors to Houston. They issued a scathing report that documented a reporting delay, failure to seek medical care and the doctoring of incident reports, notifying Catholic Charities on Sept. 8 that they would remove all children from their care, at least temporarily.
"ORR discovered there was an intentional plan by CCGH Senior Management to intimidate and or pressure staff to not disclose material facts of the July 1, 2011, incident to ORR in order to 'protect the program,'?" the report states.
One staffer terminated
The ORR report calls for Catholic Charities to identify and reprimand staff responsible for the delay in seeking medical care and the removal from the ORR program of anyone found to have falsified incident reports.
Catholic Charities said last week that "the individual employee at St. Michael's responsible for (ORR's) concerns was subsequently terminated."
On Thursday, Catholic Charities said in a statement that an outside firm was investigating what happened at St. Michael's and "further disciplinary or other corrective measures may be taken," but provided no additional information.
Catholic Charities still refuses to answer several key questions about the incident, including whether the 8-year-old was separated from the two older boys after the assault, how many other children reported witnessing the abuse and what kind of treatment was provided for them and when.
Kenneth Wolfe, a spokesman for ORR, said the agency was working on placing the last three or four children who remain in Catholic Charities' care.
Catholic Charities officials said they plan to shutter the shelter where the assault occurred, citing budget woes, but hope to get the government's approval to reopen its two remaining locations.
Slutwalk confronts misconceptions about rape
by Liz Furlow
Oct. 2, 2011
Protestors gathered at the Centennial Park Pavilion on Sunday for SlutWalk Nashville, a local protest march that is part of a world-wide movement which aims to dispel stereotypes about sexual assault and to support victims of abuse.
The protests began in January in response to the comments of a Toronto police officer, who said that "women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized," according to the SlutWalk Toronto website.
One of the goals of SlutWalk supporters is to change the theories surrounding sexual assault, asserting that cultural thought needs to change from "don't get raped" to "don't rape." The protestors also hope to remove the destructive power of the word “slut.”
“We use the word 'slut' in the name of our walk intentionally. We acknowledge that words which have been used as weapons against people have power. This is not a celebration of that word, but a rejection of the concept behind it. We publicly reject the mentality which gives any word the power to justify the victimization of another human being,” the SlutWalk Nashville Facebook page stated.
Another goal of the protests is to remove the justifications of rape that allow the blame to be placed on the victim, rather than the perpetrator of the crime.
"We are tired of being oppressed by slut-shaming; of being judged by our sexuality and feeling unsafe as a result. Being in charge of our sexual lives should not mean that we are opening ourselves to an expectation of violence, regardless if we participate in sex for pleasure or work. No one should equate enjoying sex with attracting sexual assault," the SlutWalk Toronto website stated.
Sophomore Kelley Hines, president of Vanderbilt Feminists, marched with the protestors.
"Women should be able to dress however they want and still feel safe. They shouldn't have to feel blamed for what happened to them. Rape is caused by rapists, not by clothes. Whether is happens around Nashville or on campus, it's never the fault of the victim," Hines said.
Several booths were set up at the pavilion to raise awareness of sexual assault and offer help to victims.
Dr. Char Creson, a representative from the Nashville Sexual Assault Center, specializes in the counseling of adult rape victims and adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
"We're here to raise awareness about sexual assault. So many people have believed, for hundreds of years, that it's the woman's fault. The shame is so powerful because of that thinking that many of the victims won't get help."
An estimated 60 to 91 percent of sexual assaults go unreported because of shame, according to the SlutWalk Nashville website.
The protest comes at a time when the federal government's definition of rape is drawing criticism.
According to an article published in The New York Times, the federal government's yearly crime report greatly underestimates the number of sexual assaults that occur yearly, the result of an 80-year-old definition of rape which restricts the term to "carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will." As a result of the strict definition, 1,400 sexual assaults recorded by the Chicago Police Department were not acknowledged by the F.B.I.
Even with the number of rapes that go unreported, 1 out of every 6 American women, and 1 out off 33 American men, have been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime, and 1 in 33 men, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.
The psychological consequences of sexual assault can be devastating. According to the Sexual Assault Center, victims of sexual assault are:
- 3 times more likely to suffer from depression
- 6 times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder
- 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol
- 26 times more likely to abuse drugs
- 4 times more likely to contemplate suicide.
Over 500 marchers walked from Centennial to 31st and back, some carrying signs and some dressed in nothing but lingerie and fishnets.
“If you're a woman and you've been drinking, and you're out late, and you're in the wrong part of town, it's not your fault if you get raped. The fact that a rapist was there is why you got raped," Creson said.
The event ended with a candlelight vigil.
Have you been a victim of sexual abuse? You can get help at Vanderbilt.
According to the Margaret Cunniggim Women's Center website:
Project Safe offers support to anyone within the Vanderbilt community affected by power-based personal violence, including stalking, sexual, and relationship violence. Call the office at (615) 322-4843 or the Support and Resource Referral Line at (615) 936-7273 for more information.
Victim Services, in the Vanderbilt University Police Department is a professional law enforcement agency dedicated to the protection and security of Vanderbilt University and its diverse community. The Office of Victim Intervention and Education offers free and confidential services for victims of crime on the Vanderbilt campus.
Psychological and Counseling Center provides ongoing therapeutic support to members of the Vanderbilt community who are survivors or loved ones of survivors of power-based personal violence.
Group plans to open safehouse for sex trafficking victims
by Halle Stockton
October 2, 2011
A year after viewing a documentary on victims of sex trafficking, Laurie Swink's voice still cracks when she repeats the video's final sentence.
"Who will give them a home?" the narrator asked, referring to the survivors among hundreds of thousands of American and international children taken into sex trafficking each year.
That question stuck with Swink, and this past weekend she and the local church group "Leadership Refresh" discussed plans to open an area safehouse to rehabilitate those rescued from trafficking.
"They come out with no trust, a broken spirit and a lot of anger," she said. "No child chooses that life, but many end up feeling they deserved it."
Florida is among the top three states in the country for the number of sex trafficking cases, and experts say the activity is prevalent in the Tampa Bay region.
The vision for the safehouse was shared with more than 120 women who are church and social service leaders with hope that the message will spread, and support will grow.
Organizers want to open the safehouse, to be called the Selah Freedom House, by early 2012.
Right now, a need to raise $1.5 million stands in their way.
The money would buy a home, renovate it and add security, hire staff and operate the safehouse for a year or two, Swink said.
A for-sale home at an undisclosed location has been found, and a plan is in place to offer food, counseling, medical care, and academic and vocational training for trafficking victims.
The Selah Freedom House will be equipped to take in 15 to 20 patients at a time. "Selah" means to pause or reflect in Hebrew.
Sex traffickers often target children 8 to 14 years old and keep them enslaved for an average of six years.
Sex trafficking has evolved from an international problem to a domestic crisis, said Elizabeth Fisher, another organizer in the Leadership Refresh ministry that unifies local leaders to address important community causes.
"It has become so much more efficient for them to use our own children because of costs involved with visas and travel," she said. "And mediums like Facebook have made it easier to reach the children."
Olivia Thomas, executive director of the Safe Place and Rape Crisis Center of Sarasota, said they send a counselor to interview every woman who is arrested for prostitution in Sarasota County to see if they are a trafficking victim.
Three were found to be trafficked in the last year, she said.
Safehouses are vital in the community, and Thomas said SPARCC would be open to partnering with Leadership Refresh in their project.
"These women and children need to see that there's someplace else where they don't need to sell their bodies to live," she said.
Fractured Leg, Fractured Family: A Misdiagnosis Leads to Allegations of Child Abuse
by Ryan Schill
Oct 3, 2011
When Anthony Richards, Jr., was born on an early Sunday morning in June, the only complications involved his family getting the cameras in focus to capture his arrival into the world. He was a healthy baby and his parents, Queenyona Boyd and Anthony Richards, Sr., couldn't have been happier. Yet, only four days later Anthony was put in foster care after doctors discovered an unexplained broken femur, his distraught parents the suspects of child abuse.
A Protective Father's Discovery
After the hospital discharged Boyd and her baby boy, Richards took the two straight home later that Sunday. The following day, Boyd slipped out to pick up her prescriptions at a pharmacy only a short drive away. She wasn't gone long when she received a phone call from her husband. Something was wrong with Anthony.
Although Boyd had a daughter already, Richards was a first-time dad. And like many first-time dads he was protective to a fault and he worried, maybe a little too much. So when he found a lump on Anthony's leg while changing a diaper, he grew concerned.
“Did you notice his leg has some swelling?” he asked Boyd.
“Is it where he got the hepatitis B vaccine?” she asked. Richards said it was. Boyd wasn't worried. Swelling around inoculations is normal, she thought. But she came home just in case.
Her husband wasn't convinced the swelling was from the vaccine so he called his sister, a nurse. She told them to put warm compresses on the leg and massage the swollen area. Baby Anthony never cried while his parents followed the nurse's advice. He even fell asleep.
Anthony was due for his three-day check-up with the pediatrician on Wednesday, but his parents moved it up to Tuesday as a precaution. The swelling was still present despite their efforts.
At the check-up, the pediatrician gave Anthony a clean bill of health. The only problem he saw was the swelling on the baby's leg. He referred them to the emergency room at Children's Health Care of Atlanta's (CHOA) Egleston hospital in metro Atlanta. (A spokesperson for CHOA declined to comment for this story citing patient privacy concerns.)
In the ER, the doctor looked Anthony over and said that he thought the swelling could be a result of the hepatitis B injection missing the muscle. Swelling like Anthony had is not uncommon if the injection is mistakenly delivered subcutaneously. The doctor ordered X-rays and an ultrasound to be sure. Through it all, Anthony didn't cry except when they were changing his diaper and Boyd suspected this was because Anthony had been circumcised Sunday.
First, they X-rayed Anthony's leg. While the images were developing they took Anthony for the ultrasound, but just before they were to begin, the X-ray technician rushed into the room.
“Stop the ultrasound,” she said. “There's a break.”
That's when everything changed for Anthony's parents.
The Science of Misdiagnosis of Child Abuse
In a recent report, the federal Administration on Children, Youth and Families estimated that 702,000 children were victims of maltreatment in 2009. That's the equivalent of nine abused children for every 1000 in the population. But the report also says that only one in five investigations of abuse are substantiated. The rest, 80 percent, are cases in which the children are “found to be non-victims of maltreatment.”
What is not counted in the study is the number of investigations leading to deprivation (the state taking the child from the parents and placing them in foster care) before the parents are ultimately cleared of abuse. No one knows how many incidences of misdiagnosis occur each year. But one family attorney from Atlanta, Diana Rugh Johnson (who would eventually represent Boyd and Anthony) says she has brought six cases of misdiagnosis to trial in the last two years.
“Once a child abuse expert says there has been child abuse, that's not the end of the investigation,” she said. “It's the beginning.”
Experts must determine whether an injury is the result of trauma or was accidental or natural. But once a child abuse expert makes a determination of abuse, says Dr. Julie Mack, professor of radiology at Hershey Medical Center in Pennsylvania, it becomes very difficult to change the tenor of the conversation.
“The problem,” Mack wrote in an email, “is with the assumption of trauma — it becomes the default diagnosis, the one that is assumed as most likely. This is a dangerous assumption for the patient (who may have an underlying medical disease) and for the parents (who will appropriately deny trauma if none existent).”
In her cases, Johnson has found the same thing. She relies on out-of-state medical experts because she often cannot find a doctor locally who would publicly disagree with CHOA's child abuse expert.
“Once [the child abuse expert] says it's child abuse, everyone else shuts up,” she wrote.
But in infants especially, Mack wrote, “it is not appropriate to assume trauma is the most likely diagnosis, particularly in the absence of outward evidence of trauma.” Although, she adds, no physician she knows believes child abuse is not a reality. “Children are abused by their parents,” she wrote. Because of that, it is important to work hard to find the correct diagnosis.
“Fractures in the absence of history of significant trauma,” she wrote, “are also a characteristic feature of fractures caused by bone diseases such as osteogenesis imperfecta, bone disease of prematurity, and bone disease associated with vitamin deficiencies (rickets).”
Often cited as a contributing factor is rickets, a disorder that causes weak or soft bones. Rickets is often caused by a deficiency of vitamin D and in many cases a vitamin D deficiency in the mother will lead to the same deficiency in their newborn. But vitamin D deficiency may be hard to diagnose.
In a commentary in the journal Pediatrics, Dr. Colin Patterson of the University of Dundee, Scotland, writes that one difficulty in the diagnosis of vitamin D deficiency, “is that the radiologic signs may be absent or unimpressive in cases of children with biochemically severe deficiency, which is particularly true of infants younger than one year.”
The conundrum, Mack says, occurs in an infant with fractures. “If a child presents with multiple fractures, but no clinical history or signs of trauma, ‘hidden' (abusive) forceful trauma is often assumed,” she said. “The logic used is ‘abuse is present because the parents have failed to explain the fractures.'”
Queenyana Boyd struggled with a vitamin D deficiency throughout her pregnancy with Anthony.
“Are you here to take my child away?”
Boyd and Richards were in shock. How could Anthony's leg be broken? You must have the wrong family, they told the X-ray tech. They had brought the newborn to the hospital because of complications from a vaccination. But the tech confirmed their details. It was true; Anthony had a broken leg.
When Boyd and her husband returned to their room in the ER, the doctor and a social worker met them. The doctor spoke first.
“I'm sorry,” he said. “I should have asked you if you could have dropped Anthony or if he could have fallen.”
Absolutely not, Boyd and Richards told him. The social worker spoke up wanting to know what happened, so Boyd told them both the story, from the moment her husband discovered the swelling to when they arrived at the ER.
Richards' eyes were tearing up. “Are you here to take my child away?” he asked the social worker. Boyd refused to believe that. They'd done nothing wrong.
“Well,” the social worker said, “we're going to have to admit him to the hospital and do further tests.”
No one took their son that day. In fact, Boyd and Richards were allowed to stay in the hospital with Anthony, often alone in their room with the door closed, while Anthony was breastfed.
A caseworker from Georgia's Child Protective Services (CPS) arrived later that day and began interviewing Anthony's family. He spoke with Boyd and Richards, Boyd's 7-year-old daughter Anya, Boyd's sister and Richards' mother, who had flown in after the birth. He also interviewed the nurses who had treated Anthony in the hospital. No one had a negative thing to say. The caseworker even told Boyd that her Anya was very happy and showed no signs of abuse. (Repeated calls to CPS were not returned.)
Boyd then asked the caseworker to contact Anthony's pediatrician. She was told he would get to that later. He then explained to Boyd and Richards they needed to meet with a representative from the hospital's child protection division. In the meantime, doctors continued to run tests on baby Anthony.
The next morning, the couple arrived for the interview with the child protection division. Once again they told the story of finding the swollen leg and how they had wound up in an interview with protective services. The representative said that she saw no indications of abuse; the break looked like “one of those things that happens.” Boyd agreed. She was also struggling to pinpoint when or how the leg could have broken.
Following the interview, a doctor from the child protection division spent a few minutes examining Anthony. He told the parents that Anthony appeared to be completely healthy, save for the broken leg.
Boyd and Richards were beginning to feel a little relief. They felt that if the hospital or CPS truly suspected abuse they would have contacted the police by now. At this point, it had been more than a day since the break was discovered. Boyd and Richards had been left alone with Anthony on multiple occasions. No one involved in the case had indicated seeing any signs of abuse. But as the day wore on, the couple began to worry. Although it was true no one had said their case looked like abuse, no one had told them they were cleared either. The pair repeatedly called the CPS caseworker asking for information but they never received any.
That evening, the CPS caseworker walked into their hospital room with a security officer. “I'm sorry,” he said, “but I have to take your son into custody.”
With those words Boyd felt the air go out of her. “Why?” she managed to ask. “Why are you taking our son?”
The caseworker explained that the report from the child protection division doctor who had examined Anthony concluded the break was non-accidental and to investigate possible child abuse.
“There's nothing we can do,” he told her.
Boyd pleaded with the caseworker, asking if her sister could take Anthony rather than placing him in foster care. She was told that was impossible. He had no choice but to put Anthony in foster care. As CPS took her son away, Boyd felt like Anthony was being kidnapped. She had no idea where her son was — CPS wouldn't tell her — and she had no way of continuing to breastfeed him. Boyd wouldn't learn where her child was for five more days.
How Big a Problem?
Misdiagnosis of child abuse occurs, especially in infants. It is the word of the parents against the medical opinion of the doctor who examines the child. But is it a growing problem?
“I think it has been a problem since the 1990s or maybe a little earlier -– we just didn't know it,” Seattle attorney Heather Kirkwood said. “In the past decade, it has begun to spiral, I think . . . one of those pendulums that swings too far and is due for correction. [The same thing] happened in antitrust, too, just not with such disastrous consequences. Here, I suspect that we are looking at hundreds to thousands of destroyed families and falsely imprisoned parents and caretakers.”
Kirkwood has handled a number of high profile cases of misdiagnosed child abuse. Her cases have been written about in The New York Times and The Chicago Tribune. Others were featured on the PBS documentary series, Frontline , as well as on NPR and ProPublica.
According to Kirkwood, many misdiagnoses originate “simply because we don't know (or in some cases have forgotten) how to diagnose vitamin D deficiency (rickets), vitamin C deficiency (scurvy), etc.”
“Often the key to the diagnosis,” she said, “is that the child has no bruises, no pain and the ‘fractures' are self-curing — with good nutrition, the bones will develop normally without any other intervention. Not, in short, your typical fracture picture.”
The first step for Kirkwood when investigating is to do a retrospective diagnosis.
“In that stage,” she said, “I work with experts and read the literature to see how the medical findings fit together, both within the disciplines and with the clinical history. Sometimes it takes quite a few tries before we begin to put the entire picture together.”
Over time, in what is an evolving process, she has learned what to look for.
“When I first began to review cases,” she said, “I assumed that one fracture might be accidental but that multiple fractures without a major accident must be abusive.”
As she examined more cases, however, she began to conclude “that in cases in which the baby has no bruises or signs of abuse and otherwise seems well cared for, the opposite is true: the more fractures there are, the more likely it is that we are looking at some type of metabolic bone disease.”
And rickets often leads to fractures. Patterson, in his commentary in Pediatrics , writes, “In a recent retrospective study, fractures were found in seven of 40 children younger than 24 months with overt radiologic evidence of rickets.”
A Mother's anguish
It was Wednesday evening. Boyd's son had been placed in foster care earlier in the day. She was distraught and couldn't understand why CPS wouldn't let Anthony go with a family member. She called her aunt who had been in the delivery room when Anthony was born.
She was feeling hysterical and needed to talk to someone she trusted who would calm her down. While on the phone, her aunt began flipping through the pictures she'd taken at the delivery. And that's when — in the middle of the conversation — Boyd's aunt made a startling discovery that would further alter the course of events.
“I'm going to send you a picture,” her aunt said. “Did you see your son's leg?”
Boyd's aunt immediately emailed the camera phone picture to her. Boyd looked at the photograph, taken moments after delivery before the umbilical cord was cut; Anthony's leg was already swollen in the photo. Boyd searched her own pictures for a higher resolution picture and found another that showed Anthony's leg was swollen at birth. She discovered a picture on her camera taken at nearly the same moment as her aunt's picture. It two appeared to show swelling on Anthony's leg.
If the leg was broken before Boyd had even held her baby — and the swollen leg in the photos would seem to indicate that — CPS had no case. This was all the evidence she needed, Boyd thought. She emailed the photos to CPS the same night and asked that they be shown to the doctor at the child protective division at CHOA hospital. She never heard back.
Outraged at CPS for not communicating with her and impatient for the first hearing Monday (delayed until after the weekend because of a state furlough day on Friday), Boyd enlisted the help of Johnson. When shown the photos from the delivery, Johnson was astonished.
“The leg looked completely messed up,” she said later.
A mandatory “72-hour” hearing was held Monday to determine if further foster care was necessary for Anthony. The judge granted Boyd and Richards' daily visitation rights with their son. They could spend three hours a day with him, but they weren't allowed to bring him home yet. The judge scheduled an ad judicatory hearing for nearly three weeks later .
Adjudication is similar to a trial, but the judge makes the final ruling without a jury's involvement. In this case, the judge would decide if the allegations of child abuse were true. The hearing lasted five hours. The prosecutor argued that Anthony must have been abused, as there was no other explanation for the broken femur. Both the CHOA hospital child protective division doctor and the obstetrician from Anthony's delivery testified that the kind of break that Anthony had could not have happened at delivery. They were too rare.
Johnson brought in Dr. Julie Mack, a medical expert from Seattle, who countered that claim. Mack had research that showed numerous similar cases. In nearly every one, the break wasn't diagnosed until days later, even if the baby never left the hospital. She also compared the photos from the delivery with Anthony's X-rays, showing that the swollen area in the picture was where the break was in the X-ray.
The judge ruled for Boyd and Richards. Anthony could finally come home with his parents.
While she is overjoyed to have her son back, the experience has left Boyd scared and upset. She worries every time she has to take Anthony to the pediatrician. She'd done nothing wrong when she took Anthony in with the swollen leg. In fact, she did everything right. But CPS took her child anyway. Boyd felt as if she were guilty until proven innocent. Until CPS said otherwise, she was an abusive parent.
Anthony was later diagnosed with a vitamin D deficiency, likely inherited from his mother. However, he was never tested during the abuse investigation and has not, to date, been diagnosed with rickets.